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It’s time for Manteca to right a wrong on E. Yosemite

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POSTED November 26, 2009 1:40 a.m.
Out on East Yosemite beyond the Highway 99 interchange is the twilight zone.

It is where Caltrans has jurisdiction over four lanes of pavement – plus the continuous left turn lane – that runs through East Manteca.

Caltrans calls the shots although they weigh the City of Manteca’s input.

Keep this in mind when you hear rumblings over the no left turn lane out of El Rancho Mobile Home Park.

First, here’s how it all started. Caltrans wanted to reduce the amount of conflicting movements – left turns across four lanes of traffic – between Pestana Avenue and the Highway 99 interchange. It is a busy stretch of highway with exits and entrances to numerous businesses. Caltrans has two priorities – safety and to keep traffic moving.

Originally Caltrans advocated a concrete barrier down the stretch from Pestana to Highway 99 to avoid turns across highway traffic. The council at the time was giving it serious consideration until the manager of Burger King said it would destroy his business. Not one other business raised a serious fuss about it. The council caved in to Burger King. Today, those other businesses are still there and all traces of Burger King are gone.

Manteca wanted a traffic signal at Pestana Avenue as people were complaining how difficult it was to turn on and off the street from East Highway 120 that doubles as East Yosemite Avenue. Caltrans basically said they weren’t thrilled about the request but said if it did go in there would be no other traffic signal between there and Austin Road. That would be poor traffic planning on Manteca’s part as there is a large segment of land south of East Yosemite Avenue that is ultimately going to be developed. Pestana Avenue is a T-intersection. Vasconcellos Avenue was easy to punch through and actually is right at the middle of the area that will ultimately be developed.

Then there was the question of the traffic coming out of El Rancho. In exchange for the signal, Caltrans wanted left turns banned from El Rancho.

At this point it becomes a bit murky. Does El Rancho have more traffic than Arco or In Shape? No.

So is this ageism based on the assumption older drivers are more unsafe as opposed to those flipping a U-turn and edging in between stopped traffic to cross into Arco when the curbside lane has cars barreling down it at 35 mph?

Keep in mind the signals couldn’t be activated under Caltrans rules until traffic count got up which is why the back access to El Rancho was put in place. But who is fooling whom. If it wasn’t for intervention by then state Sen. Mike Machado the traffic signal heads would have been taken off and the signals mothballed. Why? Because even with the additional traffic from the back of El Rancho the numbers just aren’t there.

Do the signals make sense? From Manteca’s perspective, yes. Do they meet Caltrans criteria? No. But then again they didn’t even meet Caltrans design criteria as the right turn radius is too short for trucks. This was not, as they say, a linear progression of logic or rules being followed on anyone’s part.

 So what we have is half-baked approach to Caltrans’ original objective that limits left turns only at one spot – El Rancho – and lets them go unrestricted everywhere else. To top it off, it seems like Manteca invited the tickets to be written by law enforcement officers whether they are CHP or their own officers since they make it tempting to turn left from El Rancho.

Do no left turn signs work coming off private property? Check out traffic movements further to the west at the Chevron station and Kentucky Fried Chicken. You’ll find the answer is no.

What the city needs to do is take away the temptation for people at El Rancho to turn left and to improve safety by petitioning Caltrans to place a concrete divider from Pestana down to Highway 99.

They could perhaps be two turn pockets mid block, but that’s it.

It is true Caltrans has the final call. However, given Caltrans’ main objectives it’s a good bet that something can be worked out to right a wrong and enhance safety and improve traffic flow at the same time.
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