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Safety first: Stop sign on Crom

Manteca leaders more concerned about kids than liability

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Safety first: Stop sign on Crom

The City Council last week directed staff to install a three-way stop sign on Crom Street at Foxfire Drive after nearby residents complained about a municipal action last year to raise the speed li...

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/

POSTED August 10, 2014 9:12 p.m.

Manteca’s elected leaders aren’t waiting for an accident – or traffic data – when it comes to trying to improve safety for children walking to Stella Brockman School along Crom Street just north of the city golf course.

The City Council last week directed staff to install a three-way stop sign on Crom Street at Foxfire Drive after nearby residents complained about a municipal action last year to raise the speed limit from 30 mph to 35 mph has resulted in people driving 50 mph and faster.

In ordering the stop signs, the council ignored the advice of City Attorney John Brinton. The attorney counseled that acting before certain established traffic warrants are met regarding whether traffic, speed, and accidents have reached a state determined threshold could open the city to more liability in the event someone is injured or killed.

But the action also prevented a repeat of what has happened on four different occasions in recent years when neighbors - upset about speeding cars and the safety of children - approached the council for safety improvements. That action entailed the city staff either doing exhaustive studies or hiring a consultant to do them and then when the results didn’t justify a stop sign or crosswalk, the council went ahead and ordered them installed anyway.

Wednesday’s action avoided expending that time and money since the council made it clear they wanted the stop signs regardless of what data showed. They have the legal authority to do that. Brinton did add if they waited and did the studies and it justified stop signs under state rules the city would minimize their exposure to possible future lawsuits.

In short, the city saved a lot of time and money by the council deciding at the outset that they wanted the stop signs in place regardless of what data showed. Meeting traffic warrants per se doesn’t prevent the city from being sued in the event of an accident but generally reduce their liability.

Richard Crowe, a resident who lives in the area, told the council that Crom has always been used as a short cut between Airport Way and Union Road. But since the speed was increased, it has become even worse as a high-speed race track of sorts.

The city had to raise the speed to the 85th percentile of a radar survey that is required every five to seven years under state law for cities to legally continue enforcing speed limits by radar. If they do not reset the speed accordingly, it is considered a speed trap and any tickets issued are thrown out by the court system.

Without radar, police officers would have to match the pace of cars speeding for a set amount of time before being able to issue a ticket that would be enforceable.

Councilman John Harris, who used to live in the neighborhood and still takes walks there occasionally, attested to the speeding and safety concerns. There are not sidewalks on both sides of Crom prompting some children on the way to and from school to walk in the street.

The city has already placed landscaping bulbs at two other intersections to narrow the street in a bid to try and reduce speeding.

When pedestrian safety has been at stake, the current council has an established track record of moving forward with stop signs even though intersections they were placed at did to meet state mandated requirements. All of the intersections included key routes that children take to and from school. Among the intersections are Shasta Street and Alpine Drive, Powers Avenue and Hutchings Street east of Lincoln School, as well as Cottage Avenue and Brookdale Way.

The city is also preparing to issue a contract for work to place crosswalks and traffic warning devices on Woodward Avenue and Buena Vista Drive.

In all cases, the studies required to see if certain traffic warrant standards existed did not verify conditions were at a predetermined threshold as established by the state. Manteca spent $7,000 on a consultant to conduct a study for Woodward Avenue and one for an intersection at Atherton Drive and Wellington Avenue that showed warrants fell short but the council went ahead an unanimously approved the crosswalk on Woodward Avenue anyway.

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