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Low k-rail ‘wall’ while shoulder doubles as crosswalk as growth increases foot traffic
airport way crossing
The “sidewalk” on the Airport Way bridge deck is only the shoulder with no barrier separating traffic from pedestrians. Nor is there a fence on top of the low-profile K-rail.

As safe routes to school go in Manteca, the Airport Way crossing of the 120 Bypass is arguably the most unsafe.

There is only a concrete K-rail just over 2 feet high separating pedestrians and bicyclists from the heavily traveled freeway below.

There is no sidewalk.

Instead pedestrians essentially share the road with motorists as they walk along the shoulder feet from passing cars that sometimes travel 45 mph in the morning.

There is also no street lighting — or highly reflective striping marking the shoulder line.

As such, it further deteriorates safety conditions in fog or after the sun goes down.

The number of pedestrians and bicyclists using the overcrossing has picked up significantly as southwest Manteca has emerged as the epicenter for the city’s housing growth.

And much of the uptick in pedestrians are students walking to and from Sierra High.

Until the diverging diamond interchange was created at Union Road with its accompanying separate crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists, it was a carbon copy of Airport Way and Main Street.

The three overpasses — Main Street, Union Road, and Airport Way — were designed and built in the late 1970s.

That is when there was no tract homes south of the 120 Bypass. The first tract home wasn’t built until 1998 across from what is now Woodward Park.

Heading south from the freeway was the rural countryside.

The low barriers across freeways can be problematic.

In August of 2002, a jumper sat on the low barrier on the edge of the Cottage Avenue southern side of the bridge deck where there was no sidewalk and no fencing.

The CHP closed the freeway for hours before the individual was coaxed down.

A similar incident happened several years later on the Union Road crossing.

The City of Manteca works with the Manteca Unified School District to find ways to develop routes to schools,

More than $1.5 million worth of smaller projects to enhance pedestrian safety by and around schools will be conducted this summer by the city.

The Airport Way overcrossing is not on the radar of the city in terms of improvements to make it safer walking to and from Sierra High because the bridge deck is controlled by Caltrans.

The placement of fencing on the K-rail on the  Airport Way bridge is Caltrans’ call. So is any move to place K-rail between the traffic lanes and shoulder to provide protection for pedestrians.

That said, Mayor Gary Singh has noted the city is working toward replicating the Union Road diverging diamond interchange design with the separated pedestrian/bicycle crossing at Airport Way and Main Street.

The priority is upgrading Airport Way first.

 The two diverging diamond interchange projects are moving toward an initial scooping study, a perquisite to determine feasibility and to pursue possible state and federal funding.

Even if the scoping started today, Manteca secured the roughly $30 million needed, and successfully completed the environmental review process, work wouldn’t start for four to five years.

By the time the bidding process and actual construction is factored in, an upgraded interchange with enhanced pedestrian safety wouldn’t be finished for at least six years in the absolute best case scenario.

Meanwhile, there is no push to lobby Caltrans to at least install fencing atop the K-rail on either the Airport Way or Main Street overcrossings on the 120 Bypass.

The foot traffic will only increase.
There are more than 3,000 homes approved to be built in southwest Manteca.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email