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$1M for median with trees on Louise
Project adds bike lanes from Airport Way to Main Street
The Louise Avenue landscape median project stretches from Airport Way to Main Street. - photo by RYAN BALBUENA

Louise Avenue may soon lose its status as a “Manteca Canyon.”

Manteca is working to secure $1 million in federal transportation enhancement funds to install a landscaped median with trees along Louise Avenue between Airport Way and Main Street.

The project would accomplish a number of things:

• Make the Louise Avenue corridor more visually appealing.

• Provide funding for seal slurry and stripping to create bike lanes.

• Help slow down traffic that often exceeds the speed limit.

• Would create a wash between the cost of maintaining the center median pavement and long-term landscaping care.

• Make enhancements without spending any city funds.

• Follow through on commitments by elected leaders to make sure that existing areas of Manteca are upgraded when possible to standards that newer neighborhoods enjoy.

Louise Avenue and Union Road were dubbed “Manteca Canyons” by angry residents near Sierra High in the late 1990s who were trying to stop the city from repeating the major road design along Fishback Road.

They were dubbed canyons because both roads consist of the equivalent of five lanes of pavement from curb-to-curb, against a sidewalk that is flush to six-foot  sound walls with an occasional tree well to break up the concrete and asphalt. Besides not being appealing visually, the mass of concrete, asphalt and sound wall masonry blocks generates tremendous heat during the summer making walking down either corridor unpleasant.

Public Works Director Mark Houghton noted numerous studies show that medians and trees tend to slow down traffic. Lanes will also be narrowed somewhat to accommodate the bicycle lanes to further help slow traffic.

“We need to make room for bicycles,” Houghton said. “They are legal forms of transportation.”

The city expects the lanes to increase bicycle traffic. It will also provide a tie into the Tidewater Bikeway that crosses Louise Avenue.

The City Council is being asked to transfer $100,000 from the Measure K annual pavement maintenance account to Measure K capital fund improvements when it meets on Tuesday.

That will allow the city to hire a consultant to process the application for the funds and complete the design work by the limited time frame of May 16, 2013.

The city was approached by the San Joaquin Council of Governments about federal money that was available only for transportation enhancement but had to be spent in a short time frame.

City staff had already identified improving Louise Avenue with the median but didn’t expect money to be available for years to come.

“We (the staff) are always looking out for funds that we can use to improve the city that come from other sources,” Houghton said.