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Bypass mission: Save lives
Mayor wants effort to move up timetable
bypass fatallity
The aftermath of a 120 Bypass fatal accident. - photo by Bulletin file photo

There’s a lot at stake to make sure traffic flow improvements are put in place as quickly as possible on the eastbound 120 Bypass as it approaches the Highway 99 interchange.

“It’s about (reducing) deaths and injuries,” Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum said Tuesday.

If the current pace of carnage continues until 2022 — the earliest a second merge lane to southbound Highway 99 could be in place — there will be 11 more deaths, more injuries, and in excess of 1,000 accidents between now and then.

DeBrum — along with Councilman Richard Silverman — are on a mission to raise awareness among elected leaders about eastbound 120 Bypass’s last mile that has become one of the deadliest — if not the most so — stretch of freeway in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

The mayor has enlisted the help of San Joaquin County Supervisor Chuck Winn, a retired CHP commander, to meet with CHP brass to discuss 120 Bypass issues. Meanwhile Silverman is meeting with Caltrans district leaders.

The intent, as Silverman notes, is not to pressure as much as keep the Bypass projects at the forefront.

And, if DeBrum has his way, he is hoping a coordinated effort of regional officials could advance the potential construction start date of adding a merge lane from its current 2020 target.

DeBrum is working next on getting Assembly Member Kristin Olsen and State Senator Cathleen Galgiani on board. He is also targeting elected leaders along the Highway 99 corridor south into Stanislaus County since drivers that get caught in the daily commute slowdown that starts before Union Road and often stretches all the way to the Stanislaus River bridge hail from that area.

Safety issues center on the transition to southbound Highway 99 and how many impatient drivers — or motorists unfamiliar with the 120 Bypass — will cut over at the last second causing the right lane traffic flow to suddenly slow down. The vast majority of the accidents are rear-end collisions caused by the “Slinky” effect of the right lane during heavy traffic.

Caltrans is currently working on warning signs using real time traffic conditions not only for the 120 Bypass but also along Highway 99 as it approaches the interchange.

Studies are needed to make sure the warning signs are properly placed in an effort to eliminate any liability Caltrans might incur by installing them. The studies are expected to take six to seven months to complete.

The automated warning system would include changeable message boards specifically for traffic slowdowns. It would include four monitoring stations and a closed circuit TV station. It is designed to increase awareness of real time traffic conditions ahead and allow motorists to adjust top traffic congestion ahead.

Caltrans is targeting environmental clearance next spring with construction in fall of 2016.