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Council needs to get Main Street right

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POSTED April 8, 2017 1:28 a.m.

Take a drive down Main Street during peak traffic hours.
After all of the moaning and groaning from people — including elected officials — that key city hall folks don’t live in Manteca and are failing to see some irritating traffic issues, you’d think the city council would be using the delay in the long promised Main Street work to make sure it is done right and not simply add a new coat of pavement.
The Main Street project — once you factor in the $1 million set aside to rip out bulbs and reconfigure the 100 block of North Main — is going to cost $2.8 million. Since the city isn’t likely to touch the street in any significant manner for at least a quarter of a century, why not consider spending a bit more money and do it right?
Northbound from the 120 Bypass it is getting more common for traffic trying to turn left onto Mission Ridge Drive to back up and block the inside thru lane on South Main. Why not shorten the left turn pocket into the U Haul and move the turn pocket into the strip center where Dairy Queen is down two car lengths to the south? This would allow four more cars into the left pocket heading to Mission Ridge Drive.
The city also might want to lengthen the left turn pocket for southbound Main traffic heading toward Industrial Park Drive by perhaps two car lengths. They are times when it is filled waiting for the light change.
The 100 block of South Main is a particularly confusing and a dangerous zig-zag maze thanks to the city’s unwritten doctrine that Manteca drivers should be allowed to make left turns at will across major streets to enter and leave commercial driveways. Heaven forbid if someone has to go a block out of their way in the name of making traffic patterns safer.
This block has been the scene of more than a few fender benders due to left turns at mid-block. And a day doesn’t go by that northbound vehicles don’t cross the double yellow line to get around backed up vehicles trying to cross Yosemite seeking to get into the left turn pocket heading westbound on Yosemite.
Here’s a real simple solution that will have minimal costs — put in a raised, narrow median curb. Not only will it prevent people wanting to go left on Yosemite from crossing the double yellow line but it will eliminate left turns in and out of the Bank of America parking lot. What makes this bizarre is the bank’s parking lot also ties into Mikesell Avenue that is less than 100 feet to the south where left turns can be made in and out of the bank from Main.
Now for the Main event: The myopic solution the council selected last June from two options on what to do with the 100 block of North Main after the bulbs are ripped out that staff presented based on the clear-as-mud impression the council gave about the need to keep landscaped medians.
As it stands now there will be two 10-foot wide travel lanes south, a 10-foot travel lane north, narrower medians relocated to accommodate 10-foot pocket turn lanes and two bike lanes.
As anyone who has ever driven this block knows the turn pockets back up. Lengthening them two car lengths each to westbound Center Street and eastbound Yosmeite Avenue might take care of things for a few years. But what happens when Manteca adds upwards of 20,000 people as the city is projected to do over the next 10 years? While Main Street traffic won’t increase proportionately, there is likely to be an increase.
So why not go with the solution that actually moves the most traffic?
It would mean jettisoning landscaped medians and running a raised narrow curb median down the center of the block with a decorative wrought iron fence on top to prevent pedestrians— or the homeless on bicycles — from weaving in and out of traffic at mid-block. It would still prevent left turns in and out of numerous driveways such as at Wells Fargo Bank as well as the alley.
You then put two 10-foot lanes in each direction instead of just one lane headed north as well as the two bike lanes.
What you then do is readjust the traffic signals on Main at both Center and Yosemite to allow one direction to go at any given time. This would mean the center lanes in both directions could go straight or make protected left turns during a signal cycle. It would gave the added bonuses of doing the same for northbound traffic in the 100 block of South Main to effectively increase left turn capacity onto Yosemite heading toward Maple Avenue as well.
Then in the 200 block of North Main you’d eliminate parking for perhaps 300 feet on the east side to allow two lanes to go across Center Street before merging into one.
By taking out the median you effectively will have removed all landscaping in the 100 block of North Main Street except for the trees in wells along the sidewalk. Perhaps the council doesn’t really want that in a bid to avoid a concrete jungle look. But if the issue is to move traffic, then move traffic.
They could always have low and fairly narrow planters — permanent or otherwise — placed at the edge of the sidewalk along the curb with low maintenance landscaping.
The bottom line is this: The council needs to make sure we are getting the most bang for spending $1 million in the 100 block of North Main.

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