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Flash! Crosswalks get OK

Woodward, Atherton x-walks will include warning lights

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POSTED July 17, 2013 2:24 a.m.

Manteca is getting two more crosswalks with solar-powered warning lights similar to the ones just installed on Cottage Avenue at Brookdale Way.

The City Council — with Mayor Willie Weatherford and Councilman John Harris dissenting for two different reasons — told staff Tuesday to proceed with the installation of crosswalks, refuge islands, and warning signs with push-bottom activated flashing lights on Woodward Avenue at Buena Visa Drive and Atherton Drive at Wellington Avenue.

Harris voted no because of his belief the crosswalk and warning lights weren’t enough.

“It is the Indianapolis Speedway out there,” Harris said of traffic on Woodward Avenue. As for Atherton Drive at Wellington Avenue he felt there wasn’t enough traffic or pedestrians to warrant a crosswalk at this time. Harris said he wanted traffic lights at the Woodward intersection instead.

Weatherford didn’t believe conditions warrant crosswalks at this time emphasizing he hoped that the council’s action wouldn’t create a situation that gives pedestrians  a false sense of security when they step into the crosswalks.

The mayor said many pedestrians gain a false sense of improved safety simply because there is a crosswalk. And that, he said, could lead to decreased public safety  especially if drivers don’t yield  to pedestrians.

The approval came despite a consultant’s study showing that the conditions didn’t meet established standards for crosswalks. Also, City Attorney John Brinton advised the council against approving the crosswalks based on the consultant’s study that he noted because it exists could create liability issues for the city should an accident occur between a pedestrian and vehicle in one of the crosswalks.

Richard Hansen, the only citizen to speak on the crosswalks, asked why the city spent upwards of $10,000 on a consultant if they were going to ignore his recommendations.

In the end Councilman Vince Hernandez’ argument prevailed.

Hernandez who lives in the Woodward Park neighborhood related his personal experiences while bicycling and walking with family as well as a survey he asked of neighbors near the crosswalks.

He noted all the individuals he talked to believe both crossings were dangerous noting they were used by their children going to and from school. It is not clear whether the consultant checked pedestrian crossings during the time students walk to and from school. One of the criteria was to have at least 40 pedestrians crossing a  street in any given two-hour period to justify a crosswalk.

The councilman noted it was dangerous to cross Woodward. And on Wellington Avenue oncoming traffic ignored his family even though they were in the crosswalk and had started across with plenty of time to spare.

Hernandez said that when using the new crosswalk on Cottage Avenue once the button was pushed to activate the flashing amber solar-powered lights that northbound traffic stopped immediately. The same was true when  he went back across the street although he noted the southbound drivers didn’t react as quickly but still stopped behind the crosswalk to let him  cross.

The councilman added the flashing lights mounted on top of the signs seemed much more effective than the in-pavement flashing lights that are activated by those wanting to cross Woodward Avenue at Wellington Avenue.

And while Hernandez was open to Harris’ suggestion of traffic signals at a later date, he said he couldn’t justify spending the $250,000 it would take to install traffic signals at Woodward Avenue and Buena Vista Drive at the present time.

The Cottage Avenue set-up cost around $5,000.

The new crosswalks will also have a similar feature to what can be found on Cottage Avenue  — bars blocking pedestrians from crossing on the opposite side of the intersection.

The adopted city budget has $150,000 budgeted for the two crosswalk projects.

The expense is related to the width of both streets. To make crossing safer, it will require a pedestrian island in the middle of the streets. That, in turn, would require restriping lanes to allow the placement of the island as well as accommodating left turn lanes.

The council back in April 2011 approved a crosswalk for Woodward Avenue after receiving a petition with 90 names of  parents concerned about their children’s safety going to and from school as well as generally accessing the park.

The Woodward Avenue crosswalk got put on hold while 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.

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