Joe Colla’s Legendary Stunt Leads to Freeway Interchange Being Named in His Honor

In 1976, budget shortfalls halted construction on the interchange connecting Highway 101 to interstates 280 and 680. The 200-foot ramp suspended mid-air became known as the “Monument to Nowhere.”

San Jose Councilman Joe Colla got so fed up with the stalled project that he staged an elaborate photo shoot. He talked a crane operator into lifting a 1960 Chevy Impala to the edge of the unfinished ramp before daybreak and then convinced a helicopter pilot to drop him off right next to it.

In the now-famous image, Colla stands with outstretched arms over the caption, “Where Do We Go from Here?”

Joe Colla atop the unfinished 680-280-101 interchange.

Joe Colla atop the unfinished 680-280-101 interchange.

Driving the point home, Colla later led a caravan of hundreds of cars to the California capitol to lobby for the roadway’s completion. The publicity stunts paid off. Today, hundreds of thousands of people each day traffic the interchange.

To commemorate Colla’s achievement, Santa Clara County leaders will christen the intersection of those three major roadways the Joe Colla Interchange.

Signs bearing his name will be placed along the freeways to mark the designation. A ceremony will be held at 2pm Friday at the Center for Training and Careers, 749 Story Rd., in San Jose.

County Supervisor Dave Cortese led the years-long campaign to name the interchange after Colla, who died in 1995 at the age of 75.

In a 2010 Mercury News Roadshow column, David Fadness, a former county transportation commissioner called Colla’s stunt “a hilarious bright spot in a gloomy political era.”

2 Comments

  1. “In a 2010 Mercury News Roadshow column, David Fadness, a former county transportation commissioner called Colla’s stunt [in 1976] ‘a hilarious bright spot in a gloomy political era.’” How true. Jerry “Governor Moonbeam” Brown first took office as California’s Governor on January 6, 1975. Moonbeam also gave us Rose Bird, a gloomy person employed by the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office, who had never been a judge at any level, as the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. “Gloomy” doesn’t even begin to describe that era. Kudos to Joe Colla.

  2. I asked Mr Richards about this “urban legend” back in 2009. I was pretty excited (yeah I’m a big nerd) when he wrote back in an email that this was true, and he was going to print with my emailed question. Sure enough it was in the Sunday paper!