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Sidewalks: Broken promise

Two council members question city priorities

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POSTED March 6, 2012 1:05 a.m.

Spending $62,500 to extend sidewalk to the new Social Security office on Commerce Court behind Home Depot doesn’t sit too well with Mayor Willie Weatherford and Councilman Steve DeBrum.

They believe that money would be better spent putting in sidewalk on at least one side of Louise Avenue east of Cottage Avenue where school children and others walk daily within feet of high speed traffic.

“The city’s priorities are skewed,” Weatherford said.

The mayor said the city “kind of made a promise” back in 2006 to area residents that sidewalk would be a high priority on Louise Avenue from Cottage Avenue to a point where sidewalk existed at the edge of two subdivisions west of Empire Avenue.

“A promise was made,” DeBrum said. “We have to keep the promise that was made to people.”

DeBrum is also frustrated city progress has been slow at addressing concerns voiced by parents of school children crossing busy Cottage Avenue just a block south of the intersection to go between Joshua Cowell School and the 99-home Kensington Place neighborhood.

DeBrum characterized the fast traffic and the difficulty people have at gauging breaks to cross safely “is an accident waiting to happen.”

Both Debrum and Weatherford said that while they understand city staff wanting to wait until they can address the “overall situation” both believe it is a move that foolishly sacrifices safety concern.

“Even if it is a half a sidewalk it is better than none,” Weatherford said of staff’s position that they were trying to amass enough money to widen Louise from in front of the retail center to where it’s already wide enough for four lanes. There is a relatively short stretch of Louise Avenue that is still in the same condition when it was simply a narrow two-lane country road.

Is it the city’s responsibility for putting in sidewalk to reach Social Security?

DeBrum questioned “whose responsibility it is” to put in sidewalk to reach the Social Security office since it was the federal agency that chose to locate behind Home Depot. All other sidewalks in Spreckels Park were put in as the parcels were developed.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone (on Commerce) walking to the Social Security office,” DeBrum said.

Both also noted foot traffic is significantly heavier along Louise Avenue, Louise is used by pedestrians at night while the Social Security office closes before evening comes. Commerce Court is a wide street with little traffic, and that Louise Avenue is narrower with faster traffic.

This isn’t the first time that Weatherford has voiced frustration with sidewalk efforts along Louise Avenue. Back in August 2009 before school started the mayor asked staff to re-examine priorities for the city’s sidewalk program that was put in place in 2006.

That was due largely to a decision months earlier by the Manteca Unified School District to cut back on in-town busing to put 1,765 more students walking on the streets to and from school.  Prior to those cutbacks, students in Kensington Place were bused to school.

Safety of kids and others walking to and from the store was a concern of residents in neighborhoods east of Cottage Avenue along Louise when the retail center was going through the review process.

There is some money available that was collected that was from the center’s developer for their fair share of improvements but not nearly enough. The city also was waiting for an age-restricted community that Raymus Development had proposed on the northwest corner of Louise and Cottage to move forward. The project has since stalled.

Both council members said if money was limited and only sidewalks on the north side of Louise could go in now and the road widening were to follow later that would be much more acceptable than the current situation.

While DeBrum believes the sidewalk issue along Louise Avenue needs to be addressed first, he is also getting impatient with waiting for a solution to calm traffic on Cottage Avenue. He has spent time observing traffic and children trying to cross Cottage at Brookdale Way.

“It’s a real dangerous situation,” DeBrum noted.

He also wants to improve safety at Button Avenue and Cottage which is almost on top of the overpass where traffic often comes off the crest at speeds above the posted limits.

Staff has indicated they wanted to look at a wide variety of things including bike lanes to a possible roundabout at Brookdale Way.

The $62,500 for the Social Security sidewalks is part of the proposed budget for this fiscal year that the City Council will receive Monday at 2 p.m., in a workshop at the Civic C3nter, 1001 W. Center St. The money comes from the city’s share of State Local Transportation Funds.

Bond money available for Louise Avenue

In April of 2011 city staff indicated Manteca’s final share of a $19.9 billion transportation bond approved by state voters in 2006 would probably go toward improving Louise Avenue between Main Street and the eastern city limits.

Manteca has already received $1,046,703 in Proposition 1B funds that paid for the rehabilitation construction of West Yosemite Avenue between Walnut and Avenue and Winters Drive. That works has been completed

Public Works Director Mark Houghton at the time noted the exact scope of the Louise Avenue work had yet to be determined. It would  focus first and foremost, though, on “saving the pavement” to make sure it doesn’t deteriorate to the point it would require a costly reconstruction. Usually such a move involves overlaying pavement.

 A high priority was also identified as pedestrian safety improvements along Louise Avenue from Cottage Avenue to where the street widens again to the west of Empire Street. Such improvements could involve curbs, gutter and sidewalks and more pavements on either side of the street or both.

Staff said at the time additional money would still be needed for a limited scope project.

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