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Do pedestrians count in Manteca? The answer may come on Tuesday

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POSTED July 1, 2013 12:40 a.m.

What opinion weighs more with the Manteca City Council: Those of neighborhoods or consultants?

The answer is expected to finally come Tuesday when the council is scheduled to decide the fate of the Woodward Avenue crosswalk at Buena Vista Drive.

Back in 2010, Stacey Ivey-Hernandez started getting concerned about the safety of her kids and other Paseo West neighborhood children having to cross busy and often high-speed Woodward Avenue walking to school. That’s when the Manteca Unified School District was forced to drastically cutback on bus service due to the budget crisis requiring neighborhood kids to walk to Woodward School. Ivey-Hernandez contacted city officials and started circulating a petition to get a crosswalk across Woodward Avenue at Buena Vista Drive. Almost 90 people signed the petition.

Her efforts paid off  — or at least she was led to believe so — in April 2011 when the City Council voted unanimously to approve a crosswalk complete with signage alerting approaching traffic that they are nearing a pedestrian crossing.

The crosswalk got put on hold while the staff looked at traffic and parking as a whole around Woodward Park. Then further staff cutbacks and other more pressing projects requiring action before losing state and federal money took priority. Next the exact design of the crosswalk was delayed until such time the Atherton Drive extension was opened and the city was able to study changes in the traffic patterns.

Then two years after the council said “yes” which apparently really meant “we’ll study it to death” they made the decision to hire a private traffic consultant for about $10,000 to get the ball rolling.

The consultant, of course, is verifying what staff originally told the council.

So on Tuesday, the council will have a $10,000 report that verifies what staff indicated was the case that conditions based on established criteria do not justify crosswalks at either Woodward Avenue where it intersects with Buena Vista or Atherton Drive where it intersects with the bike path and Wellington Avenue.

Staff did, however, include options for crosswalks for the council to consider at both locations. They also made sure the proposed budget has $150,000 in capital improvement funds set aside. Making a crosswalk safe across the wide expanse of Woodward Avenue can be an expensive proposition.

None of the past two years would have happened if someone stepped up to the plate on the council and took the bull by the horns.

That is what happened in 2007 when Councilwoman Debby Moorhead —after being contacted by neighbors about the safety of kids walking to Lincoln Park and Lincoln School — was able to get a three-way stop and crosswalks on Powers Avenue at Hutchings Street. Staff did what they were supposed to do and looked at adopted criteria and said it was not justified. Moorhead then got Public Works Director Mark Houghton out to look at the situation with her.

The staff came up with a solution that included narrowing travel lanes to reduce speed on Powers Avenue. It was a definite improvement in safety although it didn’t meet the body bag criteria. The council agreed.

A similar scenario unfolded when Councilman Steve DeBrum stepped up his game for a crosswalk across Cottage Avenue at Brookdale Way. Staff did what they were hired to do and then council — taking that into consideration — made a policy decision to proceed. The rationale behind the Cottage crosswalk is almost a carbon copy of Woodward Avenue as it involves children walking to and from school across a busy street with high speed traffic after bus service was dropped.

Woodward Avenue has a posted 45 mph speed limit. The speed survey just done indicates it can stay at 45 mph. Atherton Drive, on the other hand, will have to go from 35 mph to 45 mph based on the speed of course.

Would council members want their grandkids or children crossing under such conditions?

While that can be said of all intersections on such streets, there are two things that make them different. Buena Vista Drive accesses a major community park that doubles as a neighborhood park. It is also a route for Paseo West youth to walk to and from Woodward School.

As for Atherton Drive, it is where the Atherton Drive spur of the Tidewater Bikeway connects with the Wellington Avenue spur.

The city elsewhere where a separated bike path crosses a major connector street has installed traffic signals — Louise Avenue, Northgate Drive, and Center Street. A developer is on the hook to install them on Lathrop Road as well.

Atherton Drive is designed as a connector street as well. But more importantly every place else in Manteca where the separated bike path system crosses a street there is at least a crosswalk (Alameda Street, Manteca Avenue, Yosemite Avenue, Van Ryn Road,) if not a crosswalk and traffic signals ( Northgate Drive, Louise Avenue, Center Street, South Main Street, Industrial Park Drive) or a crosswalk with in-ground flashing warning lights. (Woodward Avenue). Why deviate from an apparent policy on Atherton Drive? Or better yet, did the other bike path crossing face the same litmus test as that for Wellington Avenue at Atherton?

If the council says “no” to crosswalks, they need to make it clear to Ivey-Hernandez and 90 other concerned parents why they told them “yes” in the first place and then opted to change their minds.



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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