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Council awards bid to widen Louise Avenue

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Council awards bid to widen Louise Avenue

Louise Avenue in East Manteca is being widened to four lanes east of Cottage Avenue.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED July 20, 2013 2:26 a.m.

Manteca’s campaign to enhance pedestrian safety continues.

The City Council this week awarded a $763,000 contract to George Reed Construction to widen Louise Avenue from two to four lanes between Cottage Avenue and Empire Avenue.

Spurring the city to action were neighborhood concerns about pedestrian safety along the narrow two lane segment of Louise Avenue that currently has no sidewalks. When the project is completed this fall, there will be continuous sidewalks on both sides of Louise Avenue from Cottage Avenue to a point east of Pestana Avenue.

Other pedestrian-related safety initiatives include:

• the completion of putting in sidewalk along Commerce Court from Phoenix Drive to the new Social Security office. The city will be reimbursed when the adjoining land develops.

• the installation of a crosswalk with warning flashers on Cottage Avenue at Brookdale Way.

• the approval of a crosswalk with flashing warning lights and a pedestrian island in the middle of Woodward Avenue at Buena Vista Drive.

The Louise Avenue project fulfills a promise a previous City Council in 2006 made to make connecting sidewalk with two established neighborhoods to a small retail center on the north and to St. Mary’s Church to the south a priority.

The travel lanes along the segment being widened are narrow and the pavement has washboard like texture between filled in potholes. Pedestrians are forced to walk close to the 45 mph traffic due to a narrow, dirt shoulder. And when it rains, pedestrians often walk on the roadway to traverse the segment creating a safety hazard. The pavement is also too narrow to safely accommodate a bicyclist and vehicle heading in the same direction.

The city is not spending and local funds for the project. Instead they are taking advantage of $967,440 in statewide Proposition 1B bond money the city has been awarded.

City officials have said the bond money not needed to cover the cost of widening the targeted segment will be used to make pavement improvements elsewhere on Louise Avenue.

Once the widening east of Cottage Avenue is completed, that will leave four segments of Louise Avenue to widen between the city limits from just west of Austin Road and the Lathrop city limits.

The Louise Avenue crossing of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks between Airport Way and Union Road was originally targeted and funded for 2007. But in trying to move the crossing widening forward when work done to construct four lanes between the tracks and Airport Way the city hit a snag with Union Pacific Railroad.

Then after the rest of the road was widened, UP in 2008 was able to move forward and widened the concrete panels for the vehicle crossing during a period of scheduled maintenance on the heavily traveled track line.

The road widening was scheduled for 2009 but there was one approval that was still needed from the California Public Utilities Commission. Once the road is widened, a valve station controlling pipeline flow would be too close to the road. That meant an additional improvement with modifications.

Everything finally fell in line in 2011 allowing Manteca to enter the final design phase and then go to bid. But before that could happen, the engineer working on the project at City Hall was laid off as part of the cutbacks to balance the general fund budget. That was 25 months ago.

Once the railroad crossing is widened to four lanes and the segment east of Cottage is completed, it will leave three segments of Louise Avenue within the city limits that will still be two lanes. And each two-lane segment is boxed in by four lanes.

Those segments are:

• From Airport Way to the Lathrop city limits.

• A small stretch east of North Main Street.

• The bridge crossing of Highway 99.

The most costly of the three would be the overcrossing and section east of North Main Street. Bridge structures cost well in excess of $8 million while the short segment would require extensive property acquisition.

The city has always expected the developer of the now dormant Villa Ticino East project south of the Manteca Unified School District office complex to pay for most of the widening work between the Lathrop city limits and Airport Way when they do start developing.

Manteca has floated the idea of using future Measure K funds to eventually obtain property and widen the narrow stretch of Louise just east of Main Street.

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