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Council favors Main Street solution that puts four lanes, turn lane through central district

Manteca is slowly but surely moving toward removing the bottleneck on North Main Street between Yosemite Avenue and Alameda Street.

At the same time a federal grant the city secured to have traffic signals throughout the city “talk to each other” to adjust signal sequences to more effectively move traffic based on ebbs in volume will help reduce congestion and wait time not only along the Main Street corridor but also on other major arterials.

The City Council last week favored a plan that would place two travel lanes in each direction, a center turning lane/median, and a 5-foot bike lane on both sides of the street on the four block stretch at a cost of just over $2 million. It would mean the elimination of on-street parking, the sidewalk in some spots being narrowed to 5 feet, and the city working with businesses to change doors that currently swing out into the sidewalks to swing inward instead.

The fact the last remaining bulb outs in the 100 block of North Main have yet to be taken out continues to irk more than a few Manteca residents after the council voted in early 2017 to remove them. The most problematic bulbs were removed at that time but the council opted to wait to do “it right” after Councilman Gary Singh — who is no fan of the bulbs outs — argued it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money not to address all of the issues at one time through the central district on North Main.

Had the city proceeded with removing the rest of the bulb outs as well as the median and then readjusting that block — including paving — at that time it would have cost $1 million.

“If we did that all we would have done is move the bottleneck down a block,” Singh said last week.

Then when the city eventually addressed the stretch from Center Street to Alameda they would have had to spend more money to change the configuration of the 100 block of Main Street again.

The council directed staff to look at options for the median. Singh made the case it was need to avoid people from trying to turn in and out of parking lots and several business driveways by making left turns across traffic. Singh noted it would create traffic hazards as well as disrupt the flow of vehicles.

Mayor Ben Cantu agreed noting all you would be requiring people to do is drive a half a block out of their way by physically banning left turns between intersections.

Manteca resident Wendy Benavides, who used to work in a real estate office in the 100 block of North Main, also spoke in favor of some type of medians. She noted before the median was put in place to limit turns into and out of alleys and parking lots including the one at Wells Fargo there were frequent collisions.

She said without medians” there will be a blood bath.”

Councilman Dave Breitenbucher, a retired firefighter that once drove fire engines responding to emergencies through the 100 block, cautioned that medians will slow response time making it difficult for emergency vehicles to get around traffic.

Dell Webb resident Bill Barnhart suggested a hybrid approach with 18-inch wide concrete medians mid-block that would allow fire trucks to cross over of necessary. The medians would then give way to turn lanes at the intersections.

The council directed staff to explore a variety of options for the median and perhaps employ a hybrid approach as different blocks have different issues.

Making streets safer

& less congested

The city is in the final stages of work needed so they can implement two projects designed to make it easier to navigate major streets as well as make all streets safer.

TJKM Transportation Consultants has been working on the design and environmental work for traffic signal upgrades as well as the retroreflective traffic sign project.

When the two projects being funded with $5.4 million in federal grants augment with $402,000 from local sources Manteca will have:

uAn updated traffic signal control system that typically is found in communities of 200,000 or more residents.

uStreet signs throughout the city that meet the pending Federal Highway Administrative mandate that they have a higher night visibility.

The staff’s decision to seek out grants and applying for them means the mandate will be met with a minimum hit on Manteca’s pocketbook. It also secured money for a project that would not only coordinate signals better for enhanced traffic flow but allow it to be done as needed that likely would not have been funded.

The contract for the traffic signal design and environmental work as required by federal law is $477,699.90. The retroreflective sign design work will cost $389,183.

Manteca will incur a $2.7 million tab  replacing all traffic signs — stop signs, speed signs, warning signs, street signs, and such — with ones that have a significantly higher retro-reflectively

The mandate by the Federal Highway Administration is based on the fact half of traffic fatalities occur at night even though only a quarter of all travel takes place at night. And while intoxication and fatigue contribute to the high rate of nighttime crashes, the federal government contends nighttime driving is inherently hazardous because of decreased driver visibility.

The newer sign material improves highway safety and prevents roadway departure crashes by bouncing light from vehicle headlights back toward the vehicle and the driver’s eye, making the signs appear brighter and easier to see and read. At the same time, older signs lose their reflectivity over time.

It will cost $3.2 million to assess and improve all traffic signals within Manteca’s city limits.

Manteca has roughly 60 intersections with traffic signals in addition to 10 sets of Caltrans controlled intersections on freeway off-ramps as well as two more sets on East Highway 120.

All of the city signals have older controllers that operate independently to direct both traffic and pedestrians. Public Works Director Mark Houghton has noted in the past the possibility exists to tie in the city’s systems with those operated by Caltrans to further enhance traffic flow.

New controllers will not only allow the city to sync traffic signals but they will create greater flexibility by being able to program them at a central location to take into account increases in traffic flow.

That means the city will be able to reduce congestion on corridors such as Main Street through downtown, East Yosemite Avenue between Button Avenue and Spreckels Avenue, and elsewhere in Manteca.

The technology is prevalent in cities of 200,000 or more residents but fairly rare for a city the size of Manteca.

Besides making traffic flow more efficient it will also reduce air pollution as idling cars pollute more than those that are moving.

City officials are hopeful that improved traffic flow will improve safety of both motorists and pedestrians by reducing frustration.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email