Mountains of dirt loom dozens of feet skyward, two huge cranes are positioned where new ramps are being built and dozens of construction workers in lime vests and hard hats scramble like ants from one corner of the new interchange at Interstate 280 and I-880 to the other.
The framework for the $62.1 million interchange adjacent to the busy shopping centers at Valley Fair and Santana Row is in place. While work will last until next spring, soon commuters, shoppers and pedestrians will taste some of the new design.
Before Christmas many new lanes will be installed and the shopping season may not be the mess it has been since the interchange opened 50 years ago.
"It's nice to see the 280-880 interchange taking shape," said motorist Gary Moitozo, of San Jose. "There is some major dirt piled now and some steel going up for the fly over."
Workers are demolishing the pedestrian walkway and replacing it temporarily with an asphalt pathway. A permanent sidewalk should be in place after Labor Day.
This will permit crews to build an offramp from southbound I-880 to Stevens Creek Boulevard. During this closure, flagmen will be escorting pedestrians through the work site.
By Thanksgiving, this new offramp will be open featuring four lanes to Stevens Creek, three of which will be righthand turn lanes toward the two shopping centers. Another lane feeding freeway traffic directly onto Monroe Street and into the Valley Fair parking lot will open next spring.
Now, the best news: Before Christmas and before the large shopping crowds bring the area to its usual gridlock, the north 17-280 ramps to San Carlos Street should also wrap up.
"The northbound 17 and northbound 280 ramps will provide much better access than ever before to the shopping malls in time for shopping season," said Brandi Childress, a spokeswoman for the Valley Transportation Authority.
Lanes on north I-280 will also be realigned so cars in the far right lane will exit toward Oakland instead of Los Gatos -- a much more logical layout than what's there now. And people living in the area already have sound walls to muzzle the noise from the thousands of cars that battle their way through here.
Of the $62.1 million cost, $39.2 million came from state bonds approved by voters eight years ago. Washington chipped in with $19 million and the remainder came from local tax dollars.
The reconstruction is a scaled-back version of what had been planned. There will be no exit from north I-280 onto Winchester Boulevard to allow for a back way into Santana Row, as VTA wanted, nor will there be a second lane for traffic going south on I-880 to reach north I-280.
Caltrans feared that this ramp would be too close to the new interchange and create more problems than it would ease.
John Ristow, who oversees planning for the VTA, said two years ago when work began that the VTA knows this is a big and essential project.
"It took more than a decade to secure funding," he said, "but now we are seeing the elements of the project rise that will fix one of the worst traffic congestion problem areas in Silicon Valley."
For the thousands who head here to shop, dine or just go for a stroll on weekends and weekdays, that's big indeed.