Get ready for synchronized signals on Main Street through downtown.
That was the “consensus” direction the Manteca City Council gave staff Tuesday in trying to determine what is more important — Main Street as one of three north-south arterials to move traffic through a community that is adding 10,000 plus residents every 10 years or Main Street being subservient to changing the retail character of downtown.
Although no official vote was taken, there was a 4-1 consensus counted by Interim City Manager Mike Harden with Councilman Dave Breitenbucher not in apparent agreement on points beyond the synchronizing traffic signals to:
*synchronize traffic signals on Main Street apparently at Alameda Street, North Street, Center Street, Yosemite Avenue, and Moffat Boulevard.
*proceed with a $2.1 million citywide traffic study.
*to “park” $3.8 million set aside for Main Street upgrades in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year and not shift it to other streets.
By keeping the money put, not only would the city have money available to make other short term improvements should the traffic synchronization not be enough, but it could also go toward other traffic flow improvements on Main Street in the downtown area on Main Street or nearby streets.
One of the other short term fixes to improve traffic flow would be to change out a signal arm to allow two through southbound lanes on Main Street at Yosemite Avenue.
There is adequate space along the Bedquarters parking lot along Main Street between the alley and Yosemite Avenue for a second southbound travel lane. That theoretically at peak times could allow twice the number of southbound vehicles to clear the intersection.
Community Development Services Director Chris Erias secured “fresh eyes” by retaining the services of a traffic consultant who has never done work for the city.
The end result included his determination that coordinated traffic signals would be able to move just as much traffic through downtown as adding a second travel lane in each direction based on current traffic counts.
Once the signals have been synchronized, staff will look at the results. If that doesn’t adequately address traffic congestion, they will then look at other solutions such as the two southbound lanes at Yosemite Avenue.
The traffic consultant suggested other short term solutions such as eliminating some driveways and mandating right turns only out of driveways such as the FESM parking lot where there aren’t currently medians that physically prevent left turns.
The consensus effect doesn’t mean the debate has been settled about whether Main Street from Lathrop Road to the 120 Bypass should be four-lanes instead or having a two-lane tourniquet through downtown to make Main Street more walkable by widening sidewalks.
Mayor Ben Cantu initially wanted to shift the $3.4 million set aside to improve traffic congestion on Main Street to Airport Way. City staff indicated the budget for the next fiscal year has set aside $7 million, stating, that is enough to repair rough spots on Airport Way to make it drivable.
Erias said shifting money from Main Street to Airport Way would help make development along Airport Way more appealing to distribution centers.
Councilman Gary Singh objected saying the city has been promising — as well as setting aside money — for years to address traffic congestion on Main Street that impacts people who already live here.
Nothing was said about removing the bulb outs in the 100 block of Main Street that a previous council in 2016 directed to be removed on an actual vote as opposed to by consensus.
It was that 2016 directive that triggered the study that prompted a previous council — and the current one — to direct staff to come up with a plan to widen Main Street to four lanes.
The consultant said there really wasn’t a traffic problem on Main Street through downtown.
Councilman Jose Nuño disagreed, noting he got stuck in congested traffic just a few days earlier.
His colleagues — Singh and Charlie Halford — said there was definitely traffic congestion. And while they agreed with the need to move downtown forward that traffic congestion was clearly an issue for them.
Cantu — who argued initially against four lanes — alluded to the possibility it might have to eventually happen.
“Five minutes on Yosemite and Main feels like an hour,” Cantu said.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com