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Traffic too fast on Cottage Ave? It’ll get worse

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POSTED April 18, 2013 1:10 a.m.

If you think people drive too fast on Cottage Avenue and elsewhere in Manteca, just wait.

It’s going to get worse.

That’s because state law dictates Manteca and other cities conduct speed surveys every five years. Posted speed limits – this excludes residential streets, business district streets and school zones that have a prima facie speed limit of 25 mph in California – must comply with speed survey data.

Manteca has completed its speed survey of streets with posted speed limits, primarily thoroughfares such as Atherton Drive, Woodward Avenue, Airport Way, Yosemite Avenue and Louise Avenue and connector streets such as Powers Avenue, Daniels Street, Crom Street, Mission Ridge Drive and Wawona Street. The early analysis provided Tuesday at the Manteca City Council meeting by municipal engineer Phil Govea is this: A lot of speed limits in Manteca will have to be raised.

Cities are required to post speed limits that are within 5 mph of the 85 percentile of all vehicle speeds surveyed. It used to be within 10 mph until the legislature changed the rules.

The rationale behind the state law is to combat speed traps. So if posted speed limits aren’t within that 5 mph cushion of the 85th percentile obtained during the speed survey, any tickets police write for speeding get thrown out of court.

There is an exception. The basic speed law comes into effect. If the street is posted 45 mph and you’re going the speed limit in a blinding rain storm, heavy hail, or construction is going on, you can get nailed for a speeding ticket. That’s because you can never go faster than conditions safely allow even if you’re doing 45 mph in a 55 mph zone.

On some streets increasing the speed limit may not raise the hackles of too many folks. Corridors such as Louise Avenue, Union Road, and Lathrop Road are basically about vehicle traffic and not much else.

That’s not the case on most collector streets and segments of some major thoroughfares such as Woodward Avenue.

The odds are the speed limit by Woodward Park will have to be increased. Folks living in the area will tell you no one seems to go 45 mph. Part of that is a major design flaw. Woodward Avenue goes from two narrow lanes to a super wide four lanes then back down to two narrow lanes. Residents may rue the day they rejected a city proposal to place parking along Woodward to slow traffic down.

Another problematic street is Cottage Avenue. Try traveling the 35 mph speed limit without someone trying to play bumper tag. Unlike other collector streets – think: Powers Avenue and Mission Ridge Drive – Cottage is fairly narrow between Yosemite Avenue and Button Avenue. There are a lot of pedestrians crossing at intersections and plenty of driveways. Making matters worse, the opening of Spreckels Park retail centers and then the completion of the “missing link” connecting Spreckels Avenue to Industrial Park Drive has significantly increased traffic over the past five to 10 years.

Although the analysis of the speed survey isn’t complete, the odds are great that the posted speed limit on Cottage Avenue won’t be 35 mph for much longer.

Of course, if enough people the next time a speed survey is done after the speed limit has been raised to 40 mph or 45 mph exceed the posted speed, the city would have no choice but to increase the speed again.

This is where Councilman Steve DeBrum deserves some credit for forward thinking.

DeBrum has doggedly pursued making crossing Cottage Avenue at Brookdale Way for kids going to and from school safer. After observing numerous near hits from speeding vehicles coming off the overpass on Cottage, DeBrum started pushing for a crosswalk or other improvements to give pedestrians a wider margin of safety. That stretch of Cottage is especially problematic due to the grade of the overpass and how close it is to Button Avenue.

City staff is now seriously exploring options that would address the state mandate that will in all likelihood force them to increase the posted speed as well as pedestrian safety. A higher speed limit will encourage a sizeable number of drivers to go even faster than the posted speed.

On that list of options is a possible roundabout at Button Avenue and Cottage Avenue.

Roundabouts keep traffic flowing, serve as passive cops to slow down speeders, and enhance pedestrian safety.

The city would be wise to take a proactive stance – especially in older sections of Manteca where road designs aren’t up to today’s standards – and deploy traffic calming devices before even more speeding and increased traffic seriously deteriorate the quality of life of residents living along collector streets.



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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