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Traffic counts, speed survey next step for crosswalks

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POSTED October 2, 2012 2:22 a.m.

Crosswalk solutions for children crossing Woodward Avenue as well as Cottage Avenue to go to and from school are being addressed after Manteca completes traffic and speed surveys.

Once work is finished on the Atherton Drive extension from South Main Street to just west of  Wellington Avenue this month, the city will commit resources to collecting data that is critical to making sure the right solution is put in place at Woodward Avenue and Buena Vista Drive as well as Cottage Avenue at Brookdale Way.

Traffic counts - that once were conducted on an annual basis throughout the city - haven’t been done for at least three years.

“It is critical that we come up with the right solution for the conditions,” noted Public Works Director Mark Houghton.

For example, if traffic on Woodward drops off but speed picks up then a solution would involve somehow narrowing the street or providing safe havens for pedestrians. That could include bulb outs at the corner with the crosswalk would go as well as a pedestrian island in the middle. Simply putting a standard crosswalk in would give those using it a false sense of security and could actually make it more dangerous.

Houghton also said the solution for Buena Vista should complement the current crossing warning system at Wellington Avenue in some manner to assure continuity which in turn reduces surprises for drivers and pedestrians alike.

And if by chance traffic counts show motorists trying to bypass back-ups on the 120 Bypass do indeed use surface streets and Atherton Drive becomes the preferred alternative since it’s a straight shot that also would impact what the best solution would be for the crosswalk.

Houghton noted that traffic speeds may not drop - they could inch up - but what is equally important in coming up with a solution is the volume of traffic and the difficulty that may exist in getting a break between vehicles.

Once the data has been collected, Houghton expects a solution to be advanced to the City Council in a fairly quick fashion.

Residents south of Woodward Park successfully got the Manteca City Council to agree 17 months ago to put a crosswalk in place at Woodward Avenue at Buena Vista Drive.  The crosswalk was delayed for a number of reasons including a short-staffed Public Works Department forced to prioritize projects  with ones involving more pressing maintenance and safety concerns as well as those with deadlines to spend grant money or lose it getting higher preference. Budget cuts also meant there was no dedicated staff member handling traffic safety issues.

The city has since shifted work assignments around and this past summer gave an existing staff member in Public Works responsibility for handling traffic safety related issues.

The city has indicated they will also be looking at exploring crosswalk options on Wellington Avenue at Atherton Drive. In a pro-active move, the city wants to make sure once Atherton Drive is open that there is a crossings as safe as possible across Atherton to Wellington for bike path travel.

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