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Manteca city staff not wild about Cottage crosswalk
Once Louise Avenue is widened east of Cottage and sidewalks installed, city staff believes it will provide a safe way for Kensington Place neighborhood students to walk to Joshua Cowell School. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca‘s traffic safety gurus don’t believe a crosswalk across Cottage Avenue at Brookdale Way will improve pedestrian safety.

If anything, they are convinced a crosswalk would increase the likelihood of a child walking to and from Joshua Cowell School getting struck and possibly killed.

That is why Public Works Director Mark Houghton is advising the Manteca City Council against pursuing a crosswalk at that location when they meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

Houghton in his staff report says it is best to encourage pedestrians to instead walk to the Louise Avenue intersection at Cottage Avenue and cross there because there are traffic signals and crosswalks. He contends that once Louise Avenue east of Cottage is widened and sidewalks put in place later this year that it will be an attractive alternative to walking to school.

While Houghton is convinced traffic engineering is on his side, it may be a bit tougher in reality to get school children who live in the 99-home Kensington Place neighborhood to cross at Louise instead of Brookdale.

Brookdale goes straight through to the Cowell School campus. Students would have to go out of their way to cross at Louise and then walk back toward Brookdale and head to Cowell.

As for them using Louise Avenue, safety conscious parents may be more concerned about higher traffic speeds along Louise that leads directly out into the Manteca countryside as opposed to Brookdale that goes through a residential neighborhood.

Councilman Steve DeBrum has vowed not to rest until he can get the city to do something to enhance pedestrian safety and slow traffic down on Cottage Avenue.

DeBrum said he has been out observing the intersection and had seen youth who waited to cross and then started to do so when it should have been safe enough when all of a sudden they have a car upon them due to the speeds. DeBrum has said he wants the city to explore all options - whether it is a crosswalk or a roundabout - to slow traffic speed on the segment of Cottage Avenue between the overpass and Louise Avenue.

Pedestrian traffic has picked up significantly in recent years with the completion of the 99-home neighborhood in the triangle formed by Cottage, Louise, and Highway 99. Last year, the city made some safety improvements for pedestrians and epically those handicapped using mobility devices. It was part of an effort to make it safer for them to be able to safety cross the freeway on Cottage where they come close to vehicle traffic often traveling above the speed limit coming off the bridge.

The city has targeted Cottage on both sides of the overpass as a frequent placement of the street radar speed display reader in a bid to slow down motorists.

Traffic picked up significantly once Industrial Park Drive was connected with Spreckels Avenue several years ago. That made it possible to take Cottage Avenue and drive seamlessly onto Spreckels and then Industrial Park Drive to reach Wal-Mart on Main Street or to keep going west to Union Road as the road changes to Mission Ridge Drive at Main Street.

Crosswalks at Buena Vista Drive and Woodward Ave.

The council on Tuesday will also hear an update on progress on a crosswalk on Woodward Avenue at Buena Vista Drive.

The City Council 21 months ago approved staff pursing a crosswalk there in response to parent petitions. The concern on Woodward is the same as along Cottage. Ever since school bus service has been trimmed back more and more children have to cross heavily traveled streets that have traffic that often exceeds posted speed limits.

Staff delayed addressing a solution on Woodward Avenue due in part to other priorities as well as the impending opening of Atherton Drive between South Main and Wellington Avenue.

The opening of the missing link on Atherton Drive is expected to impact speed and traffic volume on Woodard Avenue at Buena Vista. That in turn impacts the type of solution that would work best there.

Back in April 2011 when the council approved the Woodward at Buena Vista crosswalk there was some discussion that it would be the first crosswalk in Manteca stripped in what is known as the triple four patterns that consists of two lines of solid squares from curb-to-curb. Existing city crosswalks primarily consist of dual solid lines curb-to-curb or several with solid bar markings such as appear on a crossing midway between North Street and the Highway 99 overcrossing on Cottage Avenue.

Staff at the time also recommended that the  crosswalk be a “high visibility” crosswalk. That means bulb outs on both sides extending from the corner to shorten the distance between the two sides of the street plus the creation of a pedestrian refuge island at the mid-point of the road. That essentially would create two separate crosswalks connected by the island. There could also be a flashing overhead beacon put in place and other signage making motorists aware of the crosswalk. The council also made it clear they wanted signs warning motorists of a crosswalk ahead.

Neighborhood resident Ivey-Hernandez contacted city officials in late 2010 and started circulating a petition to get a crosswalk across Woodward Avenue at Buena Vista Drive. Almost 90 people signed the petition.

Parents first started expressing concerns about the safety of their children back in the spring of 2010 when the Manteca Unified School District was forced to drastically cut back on bus service due to the budget crisis. That took Paseo West neighborhood kids off buses and required them to walk to Woodward School.

Staff is also looking at ways of enhancing crossing safety on Atherton Drive at Welling Avenue where a separated bicycle path route crosses the street.