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Divided downtown derails decisions
City Manager Karen McLaughlin spoke before the Manteca Historical Society on Thursday. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Can’t all the downtown merchants just get along?

If Manteca City Manger Karen McLaughlin had her way they would. Not only would it make her job easier, but McLaughlin said Thursday night at a meeting of the Manteca Historical Society that a cohesive unit could very well plant the seed towards revitalization and a traffic flow pattern that benefits both business and residents. 

While there’s not exactly an all-out war amongst the business owners in Manteca’s commercial core, McLaughlin, when asked, said that there are currently two groups that see the future through different lenses. That prevents the sort of joint agreement needed to tackle big decisions.

And by big decisions she means big decisions, like whether Yosemite Avenue and Center Street should be one-way. 

“The best thing that they can do for themselves is unify,” McLaughlin said. “You’re never going to get 100 percent of the people agreeing on something. But it would go a long ways towards making those improvements.”

The entire argument, she said, centers around the formation of a business improvement district and what sort of changes should be on the table. Some of the merchants, she said, favor the plan that the city has currently adopted while others favor more of a radical overhaul. 

Changing Maple Avenue to a one-way street, for example, was hailed at the time as a perfect one-two punch – a way to alleviate traffic while at the same time making it easier for people to get to the business located there.  By carrying traffic one-way from Center Street to Yosemite Avenue the plan allowed for diagonal on-street parking and a better pedestrian experience – streamlining the process for hundreds of vehicles that pass by the Manteca Post Office on a daily basis. 

It is one of Manteca’s lone two-way streets. The other is Pierce Avenue.

But could the solution for downtown traffic as a whole rest in the simple concept of limiting the directing which way traffic needs to flow?

That all depends. Some merchants believe that Maple should actually flow one-way the other direction to allow for traffic to flow off of Yosemite Avenue. Others are willing to actually consider whether Yosemite Avenue and Center Street could viably open to one-way traffic. And then there’s always the changing ideas – like those that wanted to see the “bulb outs” that were intended to narrow streets and slow down traffic only to come back later and decry their very existence. 

Other traffic issues that were discussed include:

• A $200,000 overhaul to municipal parking lots in Downtown Manteca. McLaughlin said that the city has received federal funding that needs to be used for certain projects, and repaving the pock-marked and potholed lots qualify.  

• The extension of Milo Candini Drive clear through from Daniels Street. The construction, which McLaughlin said will be funded by the sales of redevelopment bonds, is expected to alleviate congestion along Airport Way by shoppers at The Stadium Center and visitors at Big League Dreams. Additional work at McKinley Avenue is expected when funding becomes available.