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DRIVING U CRAZY

The art of driving across Manteca

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POSTED December 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.

The buildings aren’t any further apart at Main and Yosemite than they were 30 years ago.

And nobody is going to argue that the town has changed immensely in those three decades. Just between 2000 and 2010 alone more than 17,000 people moved into the city. Roughly 5,000 households were added during the same timeframe And while strip malls and shopping centers started popping up on what was then the outskirts of town, the dimensions of Manteca’s economic corridor remains pretty much untouched.

Yes, they’ve added a few medians here and a few bulbs there. First there was on-street parking and then there wasn’t. There were pavers in the crosswalks. And then there weren’t.

The one constant:  Traffic.

At any point during the day, you’re more than likely going to get stuck for more than one light cycle when traversing through Downtown Manteca or along stretches of Main Street. It’s inevitable.

And in a world that’s increasingly hurried, the fastest route is always the best route.

But what exactly is the fastest route?

It certainly doesn’t involve driving fast. In the one-year period from Dec. 16, 2012 through Dec. 16, 2013, the Manteca Police Department issued 616 citations for unsafe speed. There were 66 accidents during that same time frame where traveling at an unsafe speed was believed to be a major contributing factor.

Translation: The extra 30 seconds that you’ll save by flying down Main Street isn’t worth the ticket or the trip to jail for vehicular manslaughter all because you wanted to get to the Redbox before the Saturday night rush.

There are, however, a number of well-documented shortcuts that will get you through parts of Manteca faster.

Some aren’t legal. Spending any amount of time in the parking lot behind Athens Burgers will reveal a throng of drivers that cut through that parking lot, across Maple Avenue, into the Auto Zone parking lot and out onto Main Street.

If cutting through a corner lot just to evade a red light is illegal, slicing across two parking lots and a city street has to be a surefire way to get yourself at ticket.

Others are actually encouraged.

When the City of Manteca finally extended Industrial Park Drive all the way through to Moffat Boulevard, the route was hailed as the saving grace of shortcuts – finally connecting one portion of town with another. The linkup with Spreckels Avenue only extended that, and the route is now a wonderful way to bypass the nasty snarled traffic lights one would have to navigate in order to get from one point to the next.

Are there other ways to get around some of the busier sections of town?

• Louise Ave. and Main Street – This is, according to the number of trips, the busiest intersection in Manteca on a given day. It’s also quite efficient and more often than not you’re likely to hit either a green light or end up near the front of the line for when one comes. There are ways around, but finding them – and not flying through a residential street in the process – is actually more effort than it’s worth. Just pass through.

• Yosemite Avenue and Union Road – This used to be one of my favorite. Before they took out the “hump” you could hit this going the speed limit and get a little bit airborne. Okay, you didn’t actually leave the ground. But it felt like it. And it was more than likely hell on the suspension of whatever car you called your own. It’s a bit more refined now, and a long median strip that prevents left turns out of or into the Weinerschnitzel parking lot creates a whole unique traffic flow. Side streets exist – making the left just before Carl’s Jr. when heading east and continuing around onto Center Street is one – but you have to be going a certain direction for them to be worth anything. Unless you have a hankering for a chilidog, just go with it.

• Button Avenue and East Highway 120 – This is a certifiable nightmare. It should be a rule that you need to avoid intersections where right turns are forbidden on red, and with so many vehicles going so many directions, failing to heed this warning will likely end you up in a body shop before the sun goes down.

• Center Street and Main Street – If you base this solely off of its traffic numbers, you lose. But two of Manteca’s busiest banks are on opposite corners of Main Street here and generate an astonishing amount of traffic. Don’t feel like fighting 567,873 other people who want that last parking spot at Wells Fargo? Try the underutilized overflow lot behind it – the lot that’s typically home to one of Manteca’s Portuguese enclave when they feel like partying in the building next door. Don’t fight the fight. Just walk in.

This list could go on ad infinitum, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

But we’ve put a few of these paths to the test and hopefully you take a little something from our terribly unscientific experiment.

Enjoy.

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