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Manteca City Council getting ready to make $1 million mistake

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POSTED April 17, 2017 12:25 a.m.

There is no other way to say this.

The Manteca City Council is about to make a $1 million mistake in a misdirected move to pacify critics.

And it looks as though the council lacks the courage or the will to hit the pause button to take a second look to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

A year ago the City Council made a decision that some have hammered them to make for 15 years to remove the bulbs in the 100 block of North Main Street. 

During that meeting the council bounced back and forth about the need to move traffic, downtown amenities, stories about people hitting the bulbs, and trying to improve the downtown business climate. By the time they took a unanimous vote the only thing they made absolutely clear to staff is they wanted the bulbs gone.

So staff with only one clear directive and a lot of mixed messages regarding other issues in the 100 block of North Main Street came back in June 2016 with two options: Both took the bulbs out but neither really addressed the bigger issue that the council skirted which is optimizing traffic flow.

The two options both saved the wide landscaped median although they would be shortened and relocated at considerable expense. 

The council — instead of thinking beyond the bulb removal — went with the option to put in two southbound lanes and one northbound lane while keeping a wide median with dedicated left turn lanes. They did not think of a third option which was to tell the staff neither option was acceptable and to go back to the drawing board.

The staff at the time told the council to expect to spend $1 million to rip the bulbs out and redo the 100 block of North Main Street.

The solution the council adopted is in a twilight zone. It neither embraces the idea for why the bulbs where put in place originally for nor does it address maximizing traffic flow.

Making this all the more ironic, Manteca is starting a three-year, six-figure odyssey to update the city’s general plan to serve as a blueprint for growth over the next 20 years.  It is based on the premise Manteca likely will have 125,700 residents in the year 2040 or 50,000 more residents than the current population. It means there will be more traffic in Manteca.

Main Street through downtown has a tourniquet placed on it. It goes from four lanes down to two then back to four lanes.

If that analogy doesn’t make sense, try this: If your doctor told you that there was a blockage in your arteries that was insufficiently moving blood to and from your heart would you be happy with a proposal just to clear one half of the clog for $1 million so you’d have to turn around in another 10 or so years and spend another $1 million on a surgery to clear the other half of the clog?

Main Street needs to eventually be four lanes from Atherton Drive to Lathrop Road. That means the two lanes between Yosemite Avenue and Alameda Street will have to become four lanes.

If you think Main Street businesses can’t function without parking through downtown check out 11th Street in Tracy near Holly Drive where it passes through their downtown.

Given the city is also about to spend a cool $2 million or so in federal funds to enhance traffic flow by updating traffic signal controllers and being able to coordinate them more effectively in real time, four lanes in the 100 block can be done extremely effectively.

To maximize safety and traffic flow north and south traffic on Main Street would go at separate times. That would allow protected left or through traffic movements in the left hand land for northbound traffic at Yosemite and Center as well as southbound traffic at Yosemite.

You would still have a median in the 100 block of North Main but it would only be eight inches wide.

You do not have to make the 200, 300, and 400 blocks of North Main four lanes at the present time.

What makes this all the more worrisome is several members of the council have shared concerns with community members that they aren’t exactly happy campers with what is moving forward in terms of two lanes south and one lane north.

It is not too late in the process to apply the brakes and for the council to have an honest discussion among themselves and with staff about what they ultimately will gain from the solution they picked in June 2016 to reconfigure the 100 block of North Main Street when they take the bulbs out.

They don’t need to hire a traffic consultant. What they do need to is to decide whether the issue was simply about getting rid of the bulbs or is it to maximize traffic flow. There is a huge difference.

If not, no one on the council should be surprised if after spending $1 million that the 100 block of North Main Street will only be marginally better than it is now.

Nor should they be shocked if people start hammering them to make the 100 block of North Main four lanes within a few years.

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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