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More safety built into new neighborhoods
Mission Ridge residents
A roundabout as well as split medians to enhance pedestrian safety are a feature surfacing in south Manteca’s new neighborhoods by parks. - photo by DENNIS WYATT

Robert Fennell and his neighbors want the same consideration that newer areas are given when it comes to pedestrian safety and calming traffic speed.

If Mission Ridge Drive where they live were put in place today, the odds are the two parks along the 1.5-mile street that stretches between Union Road and Main Street that has become a shortcut for a growing number of drivers would have traffic calming devices in place.

New neighborhoods south of the 120 Bypass that are now being built are often required to install roundabouts with split landscape medians for pedestrians to use in order to access parks. The design not only slows traffic down but it shortens the exposure of pedestrians and provides them with a safe haven at mid-crossing.

Fennell and his neighbors aren’t asking for anything that elaborate and expensive. They are asking for all-way stops as well as high profile crosswalks at Swan Drive and Mission Ridge as well as Locust Avenue and Mission Ridge. Fennell also is seeking stepped up traffic enforcement and keeping trucks off the street.

They cite a number of accidents involved parked cars being hit and even cars crashing into homes. Some of the 150 families living along Mission Ridge Drive won’t allow their children to cross the street to access cluster mailboxes or the park on their own due to speeding issues.

 Fennell has voiced his frustration in letters and to the City Council about what he sees as inaction on the city’s part in terms of addressing serious safety issues. The issue of speeding on Mission Ridge Drive was first brought up in April.

The city’s Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program — adopted in 2000 by the Public Works Department to address concerns in established neighborhood such as those expressed by Mission Ridge residents — lists a number of options the city can explore to address safety concerns when they receive complaints about speeding in neighborhoods

When the program was adopted, the city budgeted $25,000 a year to have on hand as concerns were raised. It was established as a first-come, first served fund. If the fund was exhausted, the projects not tackled would take priority over new issues brought to the city’s attention in the next budget year. It even allowed for the consideration of partial residential or property owner financing of traffic calming devices to occur to expedite solutions.

The traffic calming program was designed to allow retrofitting existing neighborhoods with newer strategies that have proven to be successfully when consistent safety issues developed.

The program worked well until 2008 when the traffic engineer positioned was jettisoned.

Since then requests to address safety concerns raised by residents have dragged on for years before they were addressed.

The most egregious example was the five years it took the city to get the high profile pedestrian crossing of Woodward Avenue at Buena Vista Drive with overhead flasher in place after the council directed staff to do so in April 2011. That directive came after more than 100 residents living on the north side of Woodward Avenue signed petitions and lobbied the council for stepped up safety after Manteca Unified eliminated busing from their neighborhood to Woodward School. That budget cut required youngsters to cross the wide four-lane Woodward Avenue that often sees heavy traffic when drivers try to bypass the 120 Bypass. It is also where a man pushing his grandson in a stroller across Woodward Avenue was struck and killed when he was at the midway point crossing.

When the city still deployed the traffic calming program protocol, they addressed issues on collector streets such as Mission Ridge Drive.

One example is Crom Street that serves as a shortcut between Airport Way and Union Road. Its design — there are no houses on most of the south side as it borders the Manteca Golf Course — tended to encourage speeding. Complicating the issue was the number of children who walked to and from Stella Brockman School as most of the street did not have sidewalks at the time. Stretches in front of estate-style homes on the north side still do not have sidewalks.

The city created all-way stops on Crom at two intersections — just like the residents of Mission Ridge Drive are requesting. They also put in bulb outs that narrowed the road to prompt drivers to slow down. The bulb outs were split in half allowing bicycles safe passage. Later on, a $220,000 state Safe Routes to Schools grant allowed sidewalks, curbs, and gutters to be installed along the golf course.

After the dedicated traffic position was scuttled, a frustrated Councilwoman Debby Moorhead got staff to see firsthand why people were angry that the city wasn’t doing anything about safety on another collector street — South Powers Avenue,

The city had resisted efforts to install stop signs at Powers and Hutchings Street saying when they made visits it didn’t appear to be an issue in terms of pedestrians safely crossing the street. Staff also was worried it would slow down fire engines responding to emergencies from the Powers Avenue station.

Moorhead took city staff to the intersection just before classes ended for the day at nearby Lincoln School. Within minutes Moorhead said the staff member was stunned that a driver almost clipped a kid who was nearly all the way across the street.

Stop signs went up on Powers Avenue within weeks. The city also shifted the bike lanes more toward the center line to narrow travel lanes. That has helped to slow most vehicles down.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email