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Cottage Ave. residents oppose speed increase
Leanna Peeks plays in the front yard of her grandparents home on Cottage Avenue Thursday afternoon as cars whiz by on Cottage Avenue more often than not exceeding the 30 mph speed limit. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Jack Cole kissed and hugged his mother in the driveway of her Cottage Avenue home.

“Don’t forget to lock all the doors,” he told Paula Cole, a longtime Manteca resident.

Just before slipping into his car, Jack Cole had one more request of his mother – wish me luck.

Who knew backing out of a driveway on Cottage Avenue could be a terrifying game of chance?

Oh, but it is.

“As soon as (the Spreckels Sugar silos) went down all of this happened,” Jack Cole said on Thursday afternoon, pointing to the lunchtime traffic zipping past his mother’s home.

“Just watch,” he added. “No one will let me go. If I waited for someone to let me in, I’d be here all day. You just have to go.”

Cole made it onto Cottage Avenue and on his way without much of a fright, but he and the residents along this popular connector street fear conditions will get much worse when the speed limit is increased.

According to city staff, the posted speed limit along Cottage Avenue will increase by a third to correspond with state requirements that allow police the use of radar – not pacing alone – to enforce the speed limit.

The current speed limit is 30 mph. The speed limit will be changed to 40 mph after a speed survey conducted by the city is completed in August.

State law requires cities to set the posted speed within 5 mph of how fast 85 percent of the vehicles travel on roads that use radar to control speeds.

If the cities don’t comply, police lose the ability to use radar on that particular street.

Stan Kokoris, who lives on the corner of Glenn Drive and Cottage, doesn’t want to see Cottage turn into a freeway.

“If you put it at 40, they’ll go to 50. If put it at 50, they’ll go to 60,” Kokoris said. “It’s dangerous. They go too fast. I want them to slow it down.”

Fast and the furious

George and Betty Ellison  sat on the front porch of their Alpine Avenue home on Thursday afternoon and talked candidly about the dangers that lurk just around the corner.

For a year, the two lived on the corner of East Alameda Street and Cottage, at the base of the Highway 99 overpass and a stone’s throw from the 30 mph speed limit sign.

News of the speed increase caught them by surprise. At 30 mph, the turn from Cottage onto East Alameda can be worrisome for drivers in every direction, especially those dropping in off the overpass.

At 40 mph, well…

George Ellison doesn’t want to even think of the carnage that could come of that.

“It’s a blind corner as it is,” he said, “now they’re going to increase the speed limit? It doesn’t make any sense.”

The Ellisons say they avoid Cottage Avenue at all costs. When possible, they use the residential streets to get to where they need to be.

“You take your life into your hands trying to back out. It’s become a dragstrip – not a street,” George Ellison said. “I’ve seen kids racing down that street. We’ve had everything from Suburbans to motorcycles going flat-out.”

What about the kids?

Paula Cole has lived along Cottage Avenue for nearly 30 years, long enough to see it transform from desolate road to heavily-traveled thoroughfare.

She’s turned her home into peaceful and serene sanctuary. A fat cat sunbathes in her driveway, and the front of her home is decorated in spring and summer blooms.

But beyond her driveway, where cars drop in off the Highway 99 overpass at speeds in excess of the posted speed limit, life can be chaotic and frightening.

She fears for the children who use the crosswalk near her home.

“What’s going to happen to the kids? This is ridiculous,” she said. “I worry about the children every time I see them in the crosswalk. They (cars) don’t stop.”

One solution has already gained City Council approval. A crosswalk with flashing beacons and appropriate signage will be installed later this year along Cottage Avenue at Brookdale Way, which feeds into the Kensington subdivision.

Theories as to what influences the speed along Cottage Avenue vary:

Some point to the overpass and the acceleration gained from  descent off the overpass. Others blame increased traffic flows because of development at both ends of Cottage.

What can’t be disputed is the mood among residents.

“The speed limit is too high. If anything, they need to lower it,” Jack Cole said. “Ten to 15 years ago, you didn’t see anything like this on this street. Just look at all this traffic.”