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Saving 45 seconds in travel time can cost big time

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POSTED January 19, 2010 1:53 a.m.

Would it be worth it to you for the city to spend upwards of $3 million so you can shave 45 seconds off a trip through downtown Manteca on Main Street at peak traffic hours?

If you knew it was going to cost your family – and every other household in Manteca - $300 to $500 or more via direct or indirect taxes out of your pocket including interest would you simply change your daily routine, routes you travel or learn to be a bit more patient instead?

While the city hasn’t proposed it for the obvious political and financial repercussions, the only way to move traffic faster down Main Street in a safe manner is to physically widen the street for at least five blocks so it is as wide – without parking – as North Main Street is north of Alameda Street.

Taking the cursed landscaping bulbs out in all likelihood won’t make much of a difference. Even one-way streets for Center and Yosemite between Fremont and Union that the city once put a price tag on of $700,000 to do it right – won’t make a major difference on Main Street when all is said and done.

You simply can’t improve traffic flow on Main Street to the level it is at on Union Road or Louise Avenue because there are too many cross streets, the central segment of Main Street is too narrow, and there is parking.

Making traffic flow better to the point it is noticeable on Main Street wouldn’t be worth the investment it would take. Yet we all seem to want to be able to move even quicker through the downtown district than we now do at peak times.

The question that really has to be asked is it worth it to achieve such a goal in terms of not only the costs of the project but in opportunity costs of what other projects - roads, parks or otherwise - we have to give up to make it happen?

It is the philosophy that hopefully will drive the second look at the municipal’s traffic circulation plan. Saving 30 secaonds at a traffic signal on the future extension of existing streets won’t come cheap.

It is what led staff finally to decide to suggest to the council that what will ultimately be the southernmost road in Manteca – McKinley Avenue when it curves to connect with the Austin Road Bushiness Park – should be two lanes for a large segment instead of four and built as an expressway with extremely limited access. That means no driveways, no commercial and only major intersections.

The same is true about Woodward Avenue. Why should it be four lanes between Main Street and McKinley Avenue if there is a four-lane Atherton Drive being developed just a quarter of a mile to the north? It is sheer madness to do if it saves someone in the future a minute or so of travel time down Atherton Drive from McKinley Avenue to Main Street because that corridor is being developed for commercial.

Manteca’s current traffic standards are much like the “52-lane freeway” philosophy that has driven highway development for decades. A two-lane highway suffices until people move farther away from jobs. Then you go back and build four lanes. More growth comes and once again people move farther away from the cores of metropolitan cities where the jobs are concentrated. Now that road is widened to six lanes. Then even more people move out farther meaning the road has to then be widened to eight lanes.

Such a strategy simply encourages building, ripping up and widening of roads as an end all with the target, of course, always being to move traffic at 65 mph. It costs money. Big money that we obviously didn’t have at the time nor do we have now.

If Manteca relaxes its traffic flow standards just a bit how much money will that save? Better yet, how can we afford destroying the existing city just so new houses can go farther from the core and not take the future residents 45 seconds longer to reach shopping areas and other amenities a mile or so away from where they choose to buy?

Why not scale back on how rapidly we move traffic and concentrate on future planning that goes up instead of out or at least create neighborhood centers where a standard supermarket, park, school, and other daily services can be accessed at the core with road patterns and separated bike paths reflecting such a strategy instead of spreading them out to the four corners of our community?

Patience isn’t only a virtue it is often a heck of a lot less expensive.





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