After declaring “there is no good time” to tear up North Main Street through Manteca for long-promised traffic flow improvements, the Manteca City Council unanimously approved delaying the start of paver work until after Christmas.
Tuesday’s directive won’t delay the project between Yosemite Avenue and Alameda Street from going out to bid. Construction firms will have until next Thursday at 2 p.m. to submit bids.
“I think we’ve done enough to downtown with COVID-19,” noted Councilman Dave Breitenbucher. “We need to give downtown a break.”
The four block project will be the most extensive city investment in upgrading downtown in 10 years since the Manteca Transit Center was completed. And by widening Main Street to four lanes with a fifth lane for left turns it could arguably be the most significant improvement in traffic flow for a large swath of the central portion of Manteca since Industrial Park Drive was extended to connect with Spreckels Avenue 15 years ago.
It also will create a visual extension of “downtown” as far north as Alameda Street by using colored interlocking street pavers as found in downtown Ripon. The four blocks on North Main has more than four dozen concerns that had been thriving for years plus vacant land where new commercial projects could be built.
Downtown businesses asked for the work to be delayed after the pandemic closed stores and services forcing them to take a hit for Mothers’ Day that is one of downtown’s better retail sales seasons after Christmas.
While street closures would only affect Main Street during parts of the 90 working days (Mondays through Fridays excluding holidays) needed to complete the project, the council believed it would prompt people to stay away due to congestion concerns.
Mayor Ben Cantu, while agreeing with the council about having the actual physical work start until after Christmas, said North Main Street is really a traffic circulation issue and not a downtown issue.
“People don’t see the whole picture,” he said. “Traffic is going through downtown and not to downtown.”
Eliminating the bottleneck was the top priority of Councilman Gary Singh two years ago when he convinced his elected colleagues at the time to reject a staff proposal to only address the 100 block by removing the blub-outs and have two lanes of traffic converted to two southbound and one northbound while leaving the 200, 300 and 400 blocks as two lanes.
The price tag for that work was pegged at $1 million. Singh, and the rest of the council, wanted a solution that wouldn’t require coming back and redoing work to widen the section of Main Street from two to four lanes between Yosemite and Alameda to accommodate increased traffic.
The work now moving forward widens it to four lanes for $1.1 million. The lower price tag was made possible after staff took a holistic look after noting there were storm drainage issues in the area. Thanks to a concrete road base put in place in the 1920s when Main Street was Highway 99 that was over the years buried beneath layers of asphalt, there is already concrete in place need as a base for pavers.
Using pavers eliminates the need to take out part of the sidewalks and relocate power poles and traffic signals in order to get five lanes in place. That’s because French drains will be placed below the pavers adjacent to the curb and eliminating the need for a gutter allowing that area to be incorporated within a travel lane.
The bulb outs used for landscaping will be removed. The project will permanently eliminate 79 on-street parking spaces from Yosemite to Alameda as well as put in place ADA compliant sidewalk ramps.
The council asked for — and got — an extensive explanation of how work would unfold. They concluded it would be too risky to start work in the later part of October and expect it to be completed soon enough not to impact holiday sales especially if the rainy season started early.
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