The days of unlimited left turn movements in Manteca apparently are numbered.
The Manteca Planning Commission on Thursday approved a 173-home subdivision on North Airport Way abutting Del Webb at Woodbridge that will have only right turns in and right turns out until land to the north of it is developed for more housing.
And to prevent drivers from ignoring the prohibition, Kiper Homes is being required to place a raised landscaped medium down the middle of Airport Way that is designed eventually to be four lanes.
At a future date when adjacent land is developed, one or more of five stubbed streets will be extended north to connect with a street in the future project that will tie into an Airport Way intersection with a street accessing Intermodal Way.
The intersection will have traffic signals.
Deputy Director of Engineering Greg Showerman noted the reasons for the decision:
*Airport Way is designed as a major arterial that will eventually go from six lanes near the 120 Bypass to four lanes to Roth Road and beyond.
*Left turns across two lanes of traffic whether drivers are exiting or trying to enter the envisioned Indelicato neighborhood of 173 homes would be dicey at best.
*Such turns significantly elevate the chances of collisions given Airport Way is likely to be posted for 45 mph and eventually have heavy traffic.
*And those collisions would be T-bone crashes that tend to have a higher rate of serious injuries and damage to vehicles.
Later on during the same meeting before the commission approved the Daniels Center development featuring a gas station, fast food restaurant, convenience store, and car wash on the northwest corner of Daniels Street and Airport Way, several members questioned the impacts of right turns in and out of that project from both streets.
They worried drivers may make U-turns and therefore create a traffic hazard.
Given Daniels Street has a full median with Milo Candini Drive just west of the development where a U-turn can be made legally at an intersection controlled by a traffic signal, their concern apparently was focused on Airport Way.
Airport Way to the north of Daniels Street currently doesn’t have a raised median preventing such U-turns.
And while traffic heading back to the freeway would simply turn right onto Airport Way, the possibility exists that drivers my try to make a left turn into the driveway from Airport Way and even exiting to try and head north
That currently happens on Spreckels where the center across from Target that is anchored by PetSmart has a raised concrete traffic island designed to force right turn in and right turn out only movements.
However, is a common occurrence for drivers to ignore that due to the lack of a raised median.
A similar situation exists on North Main Street at the Save Mart shopping center.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, elected leaders repeatedly squashed staff recommendations to restrict left turns on aerials through commercials districts.
North Main Street is a prime example.
As a result, T-bone collisions are fairly common.
Here also are areas that have been prone to pedestrian-vehicle collisions as well as high speed solo traffic accidents due to the wide expanse of pavement created without a raise median.
A similar situation exists on East Yosemite Avenue between Commerce Drive and Spreckels Avenue.
Most larger cities force motorists to use intersection to make U-turns and double back to destinations rather than have the freedom to make left turns at will across traffic.
Prior to 2000 when Caltrans was designing the upgrade of the highway 120/Yosemite Avenue interchange, they tried to convince Manteca elected officials to allow a raised median from the freeway to Vasconcellos Avenue.
The reason was two-fold: There were a high number of collisions involving left turns plus the movements tended to snarl highway traffic in both directions.
The council rejected the median idea after an organized protests was led by the owner of the Burger King franchise that argued a median would put him out of business.
The median didn’t go in. Several years afterwards, the Burger King closed down anyway.
The Burger King was razed. Today that parcel where it sat is part of the InShape Health Club parking lot.
The city in recent years has made it a point to make sure arterials as they’re developed don’t allow left turn movements between full intersections that are controlled either by traffic signals or a roundabout.
Such is the case on South Main Street where the 1,301-home Griffin Park is being developed.
The median, however, didn’t prevent a T-bone accident from happening last month.
A motorist departed the new neighborhood at a right turn only street instead of driving on an interior street to reach an intersection controlled by a traffic signal.
They then swung a U-turn around the median where there is no street connection with South Main. They were T-boned by a northbound vehicle whose path they turned in front of.
As such, the city’s strategy doesn’t completely eliminate such occurrences until such time all areas along an arterial are developed and have raised medians between intersections.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org