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Council opts for synchronized signals on Main St. thru downtown as first step addressing congestion
yosemite at main
Council opts for synchronized signals on Main St. thru downtown as first step addressing congestion

As early as May traffic flow on Main Street through downtown is expected to show a marked improvement.

That is thanks to a Manteca City Council decision Tuesday to spend $100,500 synchronizing traffic signals at five intersections between Moffat Boulevard and Alameda Street. It will also include modification to a median on the northern end of the 100 block of North Main Street.

Staff, using city crews working in conjunction with the traffic consulting firm of GHD, expects to complete the work within two months or so.

The only significant disruption of traffic to do the work will involve work on the existing median in front of Wells Fargo Bank.

By removing part of it and replacing it with a thin median covering an area a bit wider than the center line area, it will allow for six vehicles to queue in the left turn pocket from northbound Main to head westbound on Center Street. The current configuration with a shorter stack for vehicles waiting to turn left often ends up with the last vehicle in line partially blocking through traffic.

Staff — working in conjunction with council members — decided to take a different approach to Main Street going forward.

They opted to break down issues and identified what fixes or improvements could be done first that wouldn’t need to be torn out when the council decides on a final course of action. Options they can explore would be keeping the corridor through downtown at two lanes with a turn lane, four lanes with a turn lane, or four lanes with left turns being made from the center lanes with during separate green lights for north and south bound traffic.

The improvements being made in the next two months fall under those parameters of not having to be “wasted” tax dollar investments by being torn out months or several years later when the city changes its direction.

Councilman Gary Singh noted such an approach allows the city to “start doing something” without wasting money in the process.

And as Councilman Charlie Halford pointed out it depends upon the final course of action the council sets in motion regarding to how Main Street will be utilized.

“(Are we) looking to move traffic through downtown or make it (downtown) a destination?” Halford asked.

He added that the move to build supermarkets and other stores south of the Bypass could reduce traffic headed to stores north of downtown. The only major retailers, though, north of downtown on the Main Street corridor are big traffic draws are SaveMart, Walgreen’s and perhaps the new Strand Hardware.

The addition of homes on North Main Street and potential supermarket draws along Atherton Drive would likely lure north Manteca residents to shop south of the Bypass.

That underscores a point Halford made regarding having data in terms of traffic counts and such shape council decisions.

After the synchronization work is completed and in place for several months, the council’s downtown committee consisting of Singh and Jose Nuno will look at data with staff and come back to the council with more recommendations.

They could involve changing the lane configurations, modifying more medians, and removing the remaining bulb outs.

Better traffic flow on Main Street will have a ripple effect on side streets such as Yosemite Avenue and Center Street creating longer delays for east-west traffic.

That will be taken into account in future moves the council may take regarding Main Street.

One thing is for sure: the council agreed the idea of pavers is dead given the cost.

It was pointed out that the perfect storm — Manteca High release traffic and a train passing through downtown — would create severe congestion that synchronization won’t avoid. In the events of passing trains backing up traffic, it may take to five minutes with synchronization to return to its optimum cycling.

 The traffic engineering firm of GHD instead of the city’s usual go-to consultant of Peers & Fehr anticipates such a move will allow for optimum flow with the existing two travel lane configuration on Main Street.

In traffic jargon, flow conditions would improve from the exiting “E” level to “D” on a scale where “F” is the worst and “A” is the optimum with free-flowing traffic.

Mayor Ben Cantu was dismissive of such a “small” improvement.

“Nothing better than ‘D’ as in ‘dog’?” Cantu asked. “You’d think we could do something better like ‘C’.”


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email