The siren song of converting much of Main Street to a two-lane thoroughfare apparently from Mission Ridge Drive to Lathrop Road and replacing traffic signals except for those in the actual downtown with roundabouts may kill a long-promised council project to eliminate Manteca’s biggest traffic tourniquet day in and day out.
The vision of Community Development Director Chris Erias — with less than a year in Manteca — prompted the City Council to once again come to the cusp of a project to address Main Street traffic back-ups that occur every day of the week through downtown and then blink. He did so by painting a picture for a less auto-centric downtown to encourage bicyclists and more pedestrians.
Erias said it “pained him” for the city to be moving in what he called the wrong direction for downtown by making it more auto-centric.
Erias even said the city could spend the $3.8 million on the Airport Way corridor to lure new growth. He argued with the city’s limited finances it might be a better use of limited money.
It was later pointed out that diverting the $3.8 million would only help cover spot work on the Airport Way corridor expected to cost a minimum of $3 million to $4 million excluding unknown underground infrastructure work. Staff several months ago said upgrading the entire Airport Way corridor pavement would cost upwards of $24 million.
Halford, Singh against
not moving forward
with Main Street project
What the council did Tuesday on a 3-2 vote — with Charlie Halford and Gary Singh voting no — was “pause” going forward with the plans to make Main Street from the 120 Bypass to Lathrop Road to four lanes by eliminating the two-lane stretch between Yosemite Avenue and Alameda Street. Pre-pandemic traffic southbound trying to clear downtown Manteca often ended up backed up midway between Sutter Street and Alameda Street.
Staff is now charged with returning with the project on June 15. But instead of the council simply considering going to bid to widen Main Street from Yosemite Avenue to Alameda Street with street pavers they will:
*present a plan to divert the $3.8 million to the Airport Way corridor.
*restart a new plan for downtown.
*possibly contact a consultant for yet another updated downtown traffic circulation plan.
*come up with another way to place pavers on Main Street and not widen it to four lanes supposedly for less than $3.8 million even though the only difference will be the number of lanes.
And if the council ultimately goes ahead with the current project on June 15, the construction schedule Director of Engineering Leigh Ann Sutton gave means it is unlikely work would be done before Thanksgiving and the return of the rainy season.
Originally the paver project was supposed to have been completed by Thanksgiving 2020 but staff — which took over the project design by saying they could design it for less than an outside firm — significantly underestimated project cost.
Cantu: ‘This community
has a terrible downtown’
Mayor Ben Cantu was pleased that the staff was pushing a vision for downtown that he shared and indicated he’s been pushing for decades.
“This community has a terrible downtown and it is deteriorating more each year,” Cantu declared.
While Singh agreed Manteca needed to have a plan for downtown, he viewed the Main Street project as an issue facing a large swath of the community that is essentially forced to use Main Street to travel north-south due to the barrier the railroad creates unless they want to go more than a mile out of their way and then double back to reach their destination on the other side of downtown.
By switching the money to Airport Way as Eras argued to attract new growth, Singh saw it as “neglecting existing Manteca and existing residents to chase new development on Airport.”
Singh stuck with that take even after staff scrambled to clarify the $3.8 million set aside for Main Street work that was first promised as a “top priority” by the city more than four years ago would only do essentially piecemeal repairs and neither repave most of the corridor or widen the road.
Singh pointed to the city’s 29-year history of doing small fixes over and over again in the 100 block of North Main that started when the city imposed no left turns on southbound Main at Yosemite to improve traffic flow heading south after Walmart opened.
When the council five years ago voted to remove the bulbs in the 100 block of Main Street and staff returned with a $1 million price tag for the work as the street would need to be repaved, Singh convinced the council to stop the quarter of a century approach to Main Street of looking at only one segment. Instead he wanted the city to address the entire problem with “the ultimate solution” from Yosemite Avenue to Alameda Street at once.
Four major changes on
North Main in 29 years
In the past 29 years there have been four major changes in the 100 block of North Main Street each done with the promise that it would help bring more life to downtown.
Halford said the “city has been here before.”
He is correct.
The downtown plan the city put in place in 1998 with Vision 2020 that led to the mural project, the Library Park expansion, the 19th-century street lights and traffic signals, and the transit center with a community room also led to the 100 block of Main Street’s current configuration with landscaping bulb outs and medians.
That was in 2005. A hired consultant as well as staff at the time argued what is there now would slow down traffic and encourage people stopped at traffic lights to look into shop windows and encourage them to visit downtown. That clearly hasn’t happened during the past 16 years even though experts say it will happen.
The council back in 2005 was ready to make North Main Street four lanes all the way through downtown against the consultant’s recommendation as they viewed Main Street as being a major north-south arterial connecting shopping at both ends of the corridor with downtown.
But then a concern over the loss of on-street parking prompted a pause and ultimately a 3-2 vote to go with what is in place now. Within a year three of the bulb outs were removed due to citizen complaints.
Given Manteca’s downtown is smack dab on two major arterials unlike in surrounding cities, Halford noted when traffic tries to avoid the downtown backup they cut through residential neighborhoods with narrow streets to do so.
Councilman Dave Breitenbucher said he was pleased staff — even if it was at the last minute — pointed out other options for the council to consider before they made a final decision.
After Acting City Manager Lisa Blackmon added to Erias’ vision for Main Street through downtown saying businesses should flow out to the sidewalks by widening them to allow outdoor dining and such, Councilman Jose Nuño said he saw that happening on other streets such as Maple Avenue but not on Main Street.
Nuño, however, appreciated being able to have more information before making a final decision.
He did add, however, just because the city makes Main Street less auto-centric doesn’t mean the city will get the businesses they think they will attract.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com