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Finally, the city may address Powers speeding

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POSTED February 1, 2010 1:36 a.m.

One of the few vehicles that travel South Powers Avenue between Marin Street and Yosemite Avenue at the posted 25 mph speed limit are Manteca fire engines even when they are responding to an emergency with red lights and sirens.

The street is primed to encourage speed. The street is wider than normal. There are no large trees with massive canopies creating a sense of closeness. There are no homes or driveways – just sound walls, sidewalks and the playing fields of Lincoln Park.

When the 177-home Curran Grove neighborhood that replaced the Spreckels Sugar almond orchard in the late 1990s was before the City Council for approval , one councilman question why there wasn’t a crosswalk or stop signs planned for the intersection of Hutchings Street and Powers Avenue. Staff simply said it wasn’t warranted. Instead, they argued the students would walk to Yosemite Avenue and cross Powers Avenue there.

Of course, that ignored an inconvenient fact. Students from the east and south of Lincoln School access the campus from a gate off of Powers Avenue. In short, students crossing Powers at Yosemite Avenue to reach Curran Groove homes is about as rare as a federal budget without a deficit.

No one living in nearby Powers Tract at the time made a big issue of the crosswalk as their main concern had been addressed by the council. That involved prohibiting two-story homes in Curran Grove so they wouldn’t be looking down over their homes. In an irony of ironies, of course, one resident in Powers Tract has since added a second story to their home.

The issue of safety along Powers Avenue has since come up on numerous occasions. Primarily they center not on children walking to and from school - even though that is a legitimate concern – but on Little league season.

Anyone who lives in Manteca and ventures down Powers Avenue from late February to July knows that it is a true miracle that no one has been hit. The street is lined with cars with passengers getting out on the road side yet hardly anyone slows down. It is also treacherous to cross from the east side of the street.

There are those who live in Powers Tract who push the pedal to the metal to the point they are exceeding 25 mph. More than a few, though, are using Powers as a short cut. That is why the city a few years back installed stop signs at Marin and narrowed the driving lanes with intersection islands at Marin, Trinity and Yolo streets.

After years of getting the run around, something is finally being done. You can credit Councilwoman Debby Moorhead for that. It started with Fred Millner bending her ear. Then once the ball was rolling other people approached her about the situation.

The end result is the City Council on Tuesday will decide whether to place a roundabout at Hutchings and Powers as well as crosswalks. The roundabout is an effective way of slowing down traffic. Stop signs would simply encourage people to step on the accelerator after they come to a California rolling stop and proceed down Powers past playing fields full of kids.

A crosswalk without a roundabout to slow down traffic would be the equivalent of the city setting up a shooting gallery with the weapons being vehicles and the targets whoever is between the white strips.

Powers Avenue is simply too wide. It harkens back to the days when cars were the absolute king although it hasn’t gotten much better in terms of how we plan our cities.

Manteca has approved several projects where intersections are intentionally narrowed or roundabouts are at the edge of parks such as in the Tesoro neighborhood south of the Highway 120 Bypass.

It is done to slow traffic and increase the safety of pedestrians – particularly kids.

If roundabouts are good enough for new neighborhoods, they are good enough for older neighborhoods.

The council has the $5,000 in Local Transportation Funds to do the work. As for the more permanent solution, it should be a top priority for bonus bucks.

We now know that bonus bucks – long touted as a way for existing residents to benefit from growth – have been used primarily to keep what apparently now seems like it was once a somewhat bloated bureaucracy in place, In defense of the city, tough times often bring out the best in people to think out of the box. Having said that, when Manteca finally weans itself off bonus bucks for balancing the general fund the permanent roundabout should be at the top of the list for funding.

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