Traffic on the 120 Bypass appears to be back to pre-pandemic levels.
That means traffic backed-up traffic and accidents are to what has been the norm for years with one big twist — homeless individuals are now bicycling and walking along the shoulders slowing traffic down.
A bicyclist pedaling on the westbound shoulder toward Yosemite Avenue from Airport Way caused traffic to slow to a crawl during the noon hour Saturday. Over the previous week Manteca residents spotted several people that appeared to be homeless along the freeway shoulders.
Just like when there is a disabled car along the side of the freeway, it slows traffic down and creates a ripple effect.
The number of homeless illegally camping along the freeway right-of-way as well as within the area of interchanges continues to increase despite periodic sweeps to clear out encampments.
Earlier this year a homeless individual crossing the freeway beneath the Main Street overcrossing was struck and killed by a westbound garbage truck.
The Main Street overcrossing on Sunday was where a seven-vehicle collision occurred in the afternoon in the eastbound lanes by the usual culprit — traffic slowing down or coming to a standstill when drivers cut into the right-hand lane at the last possible moment to head south to Modesto via Highway 99.
“Now that everyone is going back to work we’re out there at least a couple of times a week,” noted Interim Fire Chief Dave Marques. “It had dropped off quite a bit over the past year.”
Caltrans is moving toward an early 2022 groundbreaking of a three-phase $131.5 million makeover of the 120 Bypass/Highway 99 interchange that will address capacity and operational issues that are a factor in creating congestion, backed-up traffic, and driving that leads to accidents in the eastbound lanes of the Bypass that are six times greater than on a typical stretch of a freeway in California.
Back in 2010 an accident requiring CHP response happened every 2.8 days on the 120 Bypass. But by 2016, the number of accidents serious enough to require a CHP response had become a regular occurrence every 1.5 days.
The bulk of the accidents — and where almost every death occurs — is in the eastbound lanes in the 1.5-mile stretch starting midway between the Union Road and Main Street interchanges and the Highway 99 transition ramps.
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