Ripon’s streets are being flooded with up to 500 cars a day during the afternoon commute by motorists returning from Bay Area jobs to reach points south of the Stanislaus River by jumping off Airport Way in Manteca to avoid the stop-and go congestion along the 120 Bypass and through its interchange with Highway 99.
And when there is an accident during the commute, the number of those taking a short cut through the countryside between Ripon and Manteca and ultimately traveling Ripon streets to return to the freeway soars.
“I get complaints all the time,” said Mayor Michael Restuccia at Tuesday’s Ripon City Council meeting. “We need to do something.”
He noted the commute traffic along West Ripon Road coming into town involves the cut-through drivers often using Doak Boulevard, Second Street and downtown to reach Highway 99.
Staff led by City Attorney Tom Terpstra and City Administrator Kevin Werner conducted their own research, discovering that 450 to 500 cars enter town via West Ripon Road during the afternoon and evening commute hours.
A traffic count was also taken from May 21 through May 25 was taken along West Ripon Road (Main Street) at Reuss Road, just west of Jack Tone Road.
Werner said during this four-day span, a total of 32,059 cars were recorded going into town. Of that, 27,192 were seen leaving town.
Traffic often backs up along Second Street and the South Stockton Avenue intersection entering Main Street to the Highway 99 on-ramp.
“It seems like traffic is always backed to the (Ripon Consolidated) fire station,” Restuccia said.
Added Councilman Leo Zuber: “Second Street is worse than Main Street,” he said.
What to do?
Terpstra ruled out private access roads opened strictly for local residents as that would present legal problems, pointing out that a town in New Jersey did just that and is now being sued.
Werner noted Caltrans is planning the first phase of improvements to the 120 Bypass/99 interchange as well as the 99/Austin Road interchange, believing this plan would reduce the current traffic congestion. It carries an overall price tag of more than $80 million.
The project includes a number of safety and traffic moment enhancements including having two lanes go from the eastbound 120 Bypass to southbound 99 and two lanes from northbound 99 to the westbound 120 Bypass. The morning commute through the 120 Bypass/99 interchange is starting to consistently create similar problems that have plagued the eastbound 120 Bypass.
According to the San Joaquin Council of Government, this project will not begin until 2021, anticipating completion at 2024.
“There are no plans to increase the number of lanes of Highway 99 through Ripon, but Caltrans is working on a ramp metering project that may reduce congestion on Highway 99,” said Werner.
He and Terpstra had discussions with officials from the City of Fremont. The Bay Area community was able to reduce vehicle traffic trying to avoid freeway congestion buy using city streets by 33 percent, Werner said.
From those talks, they came up with several possible ideas, including:
uReducing West Ripon Road to a one-lane for traffic entering city limits.
uAdjusting the timing of the signals at West Ripon Road and Jack Tone Road to meter traffic entering the city to reduce the congestion that is currently occurring near the Main Street overpass.
uThe intersection of Highland Avenue and West Ripon Road would be designated a right-out only for vehicles traveling north on Highland.
uThe intersection of Reuss Road and West Ripon Road would be a right-out only for vehicles traveling north on Reuss.
“We can do a little more work on it,” said Werner.
Elected leaders are hoping for some sort of solution as soon as possible.
Terpstra, for one, was quick to agree. “This is a safety concern,” he said.
Manteca has a similar problem to Ripon’s but in significantly larger numbers. More commuters will turn off Airport Way or Union Road and instead of heading into the countryside and then turning east on West Ripon Road, will take Woodward Avenue to Moffat Boulevard to return to Highway 99.
Such traffic bypassing the 120 Bypass is expected to drop off on Woodward Avenue when the missing gap on Atherton Drive between Union Road and Airport Way is completed. That coupled with the city placing more roundabouts on Woodward Avenue will make the four-lane Atherton Drive with its lack of residences facing it except for three apartment complexes more appealing to commuters seeking to bypass the 120 Bypass as they head toward Modesto.
To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org