Robert Fennell, Steve Keegan and their fellow long suffering neighbors along the speedy shortcut known to shoppers as Mission Ridge Drive who cross town to reach places such as Costco and Target are about to get some help from the City of Manteca.
And judging by the rules the Great State of California forces all cities to follow they may not like some of the help.
The two spoke at Tuesday’s City Council meeting frustrated that the city was keeping them in the dark on whether anything was being done about a request for traffic calming measures for Mission Ridge Drive they made some two months back before Manteca’s elected leaders. They specifically were hoping for some stop signs and high visibility crosswalks so they and their neighbors could enjoy activities such as bicycling, walking across the street or backing out of their driveway without fear of meeting their maker.
Speeding isn’t just their imagination.
City staff had their radar trailer on the street that flashes warnings to motorists exceeding the limit while recording their speeds recently.
It verifies that there aren’t that many people respecting the 30 mph speed limit. The 85th percentile speed of radar readings of 2,000 westbound vehicles and 1,100 eastbound was placed at 39 mph.
That isn’t bad news, it could be horrendous news.
In order to enforce speeds by radar on streets that do not meet the state’s definition of a 100 percent residential street in nature — Mission Ridge and its 82-foot wide runway-like design is a collector street — a speed survey must be conducted every four years.
And if the survey shows speed based on the 85th percentile for specific streets has increased — or decreased — the speed limits must all be changed or else police can’t use radar to enforce speeding on any streets in Manteca.
Mission Ridge is posted at 30 mph today. The 85th percentile speed of the radar readings that weren’t tied to the official speed survey was at 39 mph. State law requires the speed be adjusted to the nearest speed in increments of 5 miles per hour.
Had it been an official radar speed survey that’s required by state law every four years to allow the continued use of speed enforcement by radar, the city would have been forced to increase Mission Ridge Drive speed to 40 mph or lose the ability for to use radar anywhere in the city.
It is why 10 years ago when a similar situation occurred on Crom Street, then Councilman Steve DeBrum and Councilwoman Debby Moorhead were on the losing end of a 3-2 vote not to up the speed on Crom Street were children walk to school.
They were able to push for a targeted study to justify stop signs and the city’s idea of adding bulb-outs to narrow the street and slow speeds that way.
Councilman Richard Silverman — getting frustrated the city wasn’t responding quicker to neighborhood concerns — said he was willing to vote for more stop signs now on Mission Ridge Drive.
That brought a reminder from City Attorney John Brinton that under the rules the state forces all cities in California to play by, if warrants aren’t met and verified — documented visual hazards, a string of specific type of crashes and such — the legal system will eliminate any protection the city has against lawsuits if traffic calming improvements such as stop signs are placed on existing streets.
That said, Public Works Director Mark Houghton said permanent radar signs that display the legal speed below a radar screen that displays an approaching vehicle’s speed should arrive from the manufacturer within two weeks or so. He said they would immediately be put up on each end of Mission Ridge. Houghton said the radar signs will help somewhat but they are not the ultimate solution.
Meanwhile the city will explore what other traffic calming steps they can justify to help slow speed.
Houghton hoped to be able to come up with the next step sometime this fall.
City Manager Mark Houghton noted staff will soon be sending letters to all residents along Mission Ridge Drive to keep them apprised of what the city is working on to address traffic concerns.
That said if the city either through more aggressive speed enforcement or whatever traffic calming devices are justified and put in place isn’t able to lower the 85th percentile speed when the next radar study is required, the speed limit on Mission Ridge Drive could become 40 mph.
When Keegan first moved into his home on Mission Ridge Drive 28 years ago when it was the southern edge of Manteca and Walmart had just opened, the posted speed limit on the street was 25 mph.
Keegan at Tuesday’s council meeting believes older sections of Manteca should be treated like the newer sections where Manteca now requires traffic calming devices and strategies such as roundabouts, bulb outs and narrower streets are built into subdivisions as streets are constructed.
Such a strategy doesn’t protect residents in new neighborhoods from speeding especially when they are connected with existing streets of which many were country roads not too long ago.
That’s where the experts with blinders that do all of their heavy lifting using computer models that can really help engineer streets from hell — traffic consultants — show off their talents.
One developer wanted the city six years ago to get ahead of the game on Pillsbury Road and at least take steps to allow traffic signals or a roundabout to go in at the intersection with Woodward Avenue sooner instead of later. They also had suggestions about Pillsbury Road itself.
Such a strategy would have required the city to do something it has little stomach for — either to buy land for such improvements beforehand and get reimbursed or use eminent domain.
A policy change the council finally forced in the 10-year foot dragging by previous city managers on the Public Facilities Implementation Plan fee is designed to change the culture.
In the meantime Police Chief Jodie Estarziau told the council on Tuesday that when the radar trailer was on Pillsbury last month, it clocked someone going 82 mph.
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