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The inexcusable gestation period for a crosswalk project in Manteca

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POSTED April 13, 2013 2:24 a.m.

How long does it take for the City of Manteca to put in a crosswalk?

The answer to that question might come this Tuesday, but don’t count on it.

It’s been 25 months since Manteca’s elected leaders approved placing a crosswalk across the wide speedway known as Woodward Avenue. It was a decision the council in April of 2011 said they made so kids would have a greater margin of safety going to and from school or to play in the park. Staff suggested a crosswalk might not be safe enough. They asked to be given time to look into other options including placing an island at the mid-point for pedestrians to seek refuge on when crossing at Buena Vista Drive.

Given the amount of time the crosswalk is taking, Manteca might be able to do it in less time than it took the Ming Dynasty to build the Great Wall of China. But they’ll have to hurry. It took the Chinese only 276 years to complete the directive of their leaders.

Why does the crosswalk matter? Well, it is something that people in the neighborhood asked their city to do because they feared for the safety of people crossing Woodward Avenue. They’re not making the safety concerns up. Go out there sometime. You don’t need a speed survey to understand an 8-year-old or 78-year-old walking at 2 mph is at a distinct disadvantage to those who view the 35 mph speed limit as something only wimps follow.

Yes, crosswalks can give people a false sense of security. But what is happening on Woodward Avenue screams the city doesn’t seem to really care about quality of life issues that are at the neighborhood level.

The city has had cutbacks. There are pressing traffic safely concerns such as along East Louise Avenue that could cause the loss of $900,000 in state funds if the work isn’t started soon.

That said, spending $19,000 at this point for further study is nuts.

It is justified, of course, by the need to do the right thing. It is reminiscent of a Caltrans engineer standing up in front of concerned Oakdale residents over 10 years ago. They were at a town hall meeting demanding traffic signals across busy Highway 108/120 near the Oakdale Irrigation District offices after a boy was struck by a vehicle and seriously injured. The Caltrans representative during his presentation explained the warrants didn’t justify the signal at the time. Freely translated, there wasn’t enough carnage to meet Caltrans standards for a signal.

Enraged Oakdale residents pressured their elected state representatives. They got the signal without having to meet the Caltrans body bag quota.

The study, of course, is so Manteca does the right thing.  As they say the path to Washington, D.C. - or is that to Hades - is lined with good intentions.

The council is falling into the classic bureaucratic tar pit chronicled so well in Philip K. Howard’s “The Death of Common Sense.” The bottom line of his book dissecting the modern-day gauntlet of hell commonly known as the bureaucracy is that America “is drowning in law, lawsuits and nearly endless red tape. Before acting or making a decision, we often abandon our best instincts. We pause, we worry, we equivocate and then we divert our energy into trying to protect ourselves.”

The question the council needs to ask themselves is why they need to spend $19,000 on preliminary research. Common sense dictates a crosswalk is needed with an island in the middle at the very least to allow the crossing to be done in segments if necessary. If the council is short on staff spend the money on devising plans to alter Woodward Avenue to put the common sense solution in place.

The City Council didn’t need to hire a consultant to make a decision on what to do with the 100 block of North Maple Avenue. Although not a 100 percent popular decision, making Maple a one-way north to south resolved a major traffic back-up problem on eastbound Yosemite Avenue caused by people trying to reach the post office. The traffic consultant hired for downtown missed that solution. Why? because he didn’t live here and had no idea that it was a problem just as bad as Main Street traffic flow.

It was much more responsible governance than back in the early 1990s when elected leaders decided to cower behind a traffic consultant’s report to ban left turn lanes on Main Street at Yosemite Avenue when Wal-Mart opened. When several council members were pressed at the time said they had no choice because they would open the city to a lawsuit if they deviated from the consultant’s recommendation.

We need to stop cowering behind studies and rely on common sense.

It should not take 25 months and counting to move forward with a crosswalk.



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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