Tuesday afternoon two boys — perhaps 10 years old or so — were trying to cross Woodward Avenue at Wellington Avenue.
They tried to do what they were taught to do — push a button to try and activate the new overhead flashers that warn motorists when someone is trying to cross the wide, relatively high-speed five lane road. The overhead flashers were the most expensive component of a $314,150 safety improvement project for the Woodward Avenue corridor awarded to Pelagic Engineering that was completed this past summer.
There was only one problem. There was black duct tape covering the button with a printed sign taped above it reading “crosswalk light not working use caution”.
Several hours later the City Council was debating how best to enhance pedestrian safety for those crossing Moffat Boulevard — another corridor where speeds often exceed 45 mph — to go to and from Manteca High.
They tossed out ideas such as overhead warning light such as at Woodward Avenue at Wellington Avenue and even stand-alone traffic signals specifically for the crosswalk as there are at Tidewater Bikeway crossings at Louise Avenue, Northgate Drive, and Lathrop Road. They finally went with the staff recommendation for crosswalk warning signs that encompass flashing amber lights that are installed along the sidewalk.
Too bad the council didn’t bother to make sure the city is capable of keeping the flashing lights they install working.
The ones at Woodward Avenue at Wellington Avenue stopped working less than three months after they were installed. They have not been working for going on six weeks.
It would seem to be an aberration except for one small detail — they replaced in-street imbedded warning flashers that had had stopped working for 20 months before the city got around to fixing the problem by removing them and replacing them with the overhead warning flashers.
The decision to go with the overhead flashers at the Wellington Avenue crosswalk rather than repair the flashers imbedded in the pavement that were installed in 2007 had to do with two factors: The high cost of the repair and the relative effectiveness of the imbedded flashers.
Staff believed the suspended overhead flashers such as at Buena Vista Drive have a higher visibility.
The stretch of Woodward between Main Street and Van Ryn Avenue has experienced one pedestrian fatality in the past four years. There have been numerous solo accidents where trees or light poles are struck prompting many to be concerned about how much attention drivers are paying as they navigate the wide road.
All of that aside it is legitimate to ask why the overhead flashers aren’t working especially since they are essentially brand new and if the city would let a traffic signal controlling vehicle movements be out for six plus weeks.
What is happening — or more precisely isn’t happening — at Woodward Avenue and Wellington Avenue speaks volumes about where pedestrian safety fits in the grand scheme of things in Manteca.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org