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Foot dragging on crosswalk safety?

Councilman wants Manteca to address Cottage, Woodward now not later

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Foot dragging on crosswalk safety?

Manteca Councilman Steve DeBrum wants something down about pedestrian safety crossing Cottage Avenue now and not later.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED December 20, 2012 12:56 a.m.

Speed kills.

And Manteca Councilman Steve DeBrum wants to make sure what he views as foot dragging on the part of the city - when combined with speeding motorists - doesn’t contribute to the deaths of children trying to cross Cottage Avenue or Woodward Avenue.

DeBrum first brought up the issue of a year ago of how speeding and road configurations on Cottage between the Highway 99 overpass and Louise Avenue was making it perilous for youth who live in the island neighborhood of 99 homes within the triangle formed by Cottage, Louise, and the freeway to walk to and from Cowell School.

Speed is a big concern as many drivers on Cottage crossing the overpass of Highway 99 pick up speed and exceed posted limits by the time they reach Brookdale Way where students cross the street.

“Someone is going to get killed and I don’t want that happening on my watch nor do any of the other council members,” DeBrum said.

The councilman said he is convinced staff is concerned about pedestrian safety but is frustrated at how long it is taking to see remedies fashioned and put in place.

“We need to decide what has to be done whether it is a crosswalk or a roundabout and then find the money to do it,” DeBrum said

DeBrum’s growing frustration prompted him Tuesday to request staff to bring a progress report to the council by the next meeting on Jan. 15.

On Wednesday, he said he asked City Manager Karen McLaughlin to include the crosswalk on Woodward Avenue at Buena Vista Drive in the report as well. The council approved placing a crosswalk there in April of 2011following a petition drive by nearby resident Stacey Ivey-Hernandez.

DeBrum said several days ago he saw two elementary-aged youngsters - frustrated at waiting for a break in the heavy traffic on Cottage that often exceeds the speed limit - make a mad dash to cross the street as vehicles were barreling down on them.

“A car may be 400 feet away and kids think it is safe but if the driver is speeding, gets distracted or the kids trip it  can be deadly,” he said.

Public Works Director Mark Houghton indicated in December of last year that he plans to have his staff look at various options and include the T-intersection at Button Avenue in the assessment as drivers there often have a shortened response time to make turns due to the profile of the overpass, vehicle speed, and the proximity of the intersection to the bridge.

Houghton has noted the crosswalk projects on Cottage and Woodward can’t move forward due to limited staffing after budget cuts until widening on Louise Avenue east of Cottage takes place. If work doesn’t start by June 30, Manteca will lose $900,000 in state funding. Pedestrian safety is an issue in the Louise Avenue project as well as there are currently no sidewalks along a narrow two-lane stretch.

Pedestrian traffic on Cottage has picked up significantly in recent years with the completion of the 99-home Kensington Place neighborhood.

The city has targeted Cottage on both sides of the overpass as a frequent placement for the street radar speed display reader in a bid to slow down motorists.

Traffic picked up significantly once Industrial Park Drive was connected with Spreckels Avenue several years ago. That made it possible to take Cottage Avenue and drive seamlessly onto Spreckels and then Industrial Park Drive to reach Wal-Mart on Main Street or to keep going west to Union Road as the road changes to Mission Ridge Drive at Main Street.

Houghton has indicated speed surveys and traffic counts will be conducted now that the Atherton Drive gap project east of South Main Street has been completed and opened. Staff said they need to determine if that has changed speeds and volume on Woodward Avenue. That will allow them to pursue a solution at Woodward and Buena Vista that will be the optimum for pedestrian safety.

Possible solutions on Woodard Avenue includes placing an island in the middle of the street to provide a safe refuge for pedestrians trying to cross the street that is wide enough to accommodate four lanes plus bicycle lanes. It may also involve pedestrian bulb outs on either side of the street to shorten the crossing difference and help slow traffic at the same time.

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