Manteca’s first mounted radar speed signs confirmed Friday what most of us probably already know — we drive too fast.
Two of the signs that use radar to flash the speed of approaching vehicles below a sign with the posted speed limit were installed by the City of Manteca along Mission Ridge Drive where it straightens out between two curves as it approaches Locust Avenue. The solar powered radar speed signs are the first of two steps the city is initially pursuing in response to ongoing safety concerns voiced by residents along the 82-foot wide two-lane corridor from Union Road to South Main Street.
During a 15-minute period ending at 2:35 p.m. Friday when the radar sign flashed speeds of 29 westbound vehicles it showed:
Five of the 29 cars were going the 30 mph speed limit or lower.
Three vehicles did not change their speed with one of those actually going below the speed limit.
Fourteen vehicles slowed down when their rate of travel was flashed up with only 2 of them dropping to the speed limit or below. Most got their speed below 33 mph.
Two vehicles accelerated instead of slowing down including one driver whose first speed reading was 32 mph and reached 38 mph as he reached the sign.
The most substantial change in speed was from one of the only three drivers to hit their brakes instead of simply taking their foot off the gas. That driver went from 43 mph down to 31 mph. Another driver was going 34 mph and hit the brakes to slow down to 31 mph. A third driver went from 40 mph down to 29 mph.
The faster vehicle at the first and last radar reading was one in the same. It was clocked first at 45 mph before slowing down to 41 mph. It was also the only vehicle that had a destination within the general neighborhoods as they turned right on Locust Avenue.
At one point a Manteca Police motorcycle traffic officer was seen heading eastbound on Mission Ridge Drive.
In early August data collected by the police department’s radar speed trailer showed that the 85th speed of the radar readings was at 39 mph. State law requires the speed be adjusted to the nearest speed in increments of 5 miles per hour when a mandated speed survey is taken every four years to allow law enforcement to continue using radar to enforce speed limits. If the survey last month had been the official survey, the current posted speed limit of 30 mph would have had to be increased to 40 mph. If not the only way the speed limit could be enforced is if a police unit paced a vehicle for a set period of time.
The next phase involves placing marked 5-foot wide bike lanes on both sides of the street. That would narrow the 15-foot wide travel lanes from 15 feet to 10 feet.
While that seems like an ineffective strategy, it has been working for the city on another collector street that had been problematic — South Powers Avenue from Yosemite Avenue to Marin Street. The bike lanes were shifted toward the center line by almost a foot and repainted back in 2010. It had the effect of slowing down well over two thirds of the drivers.
Experts say that’s because it creates a narrower pathway that is visual to the driver. The majority of drivers will slow down. It’s considered a passive speed control measure just like the radar signs.
Frustrated residents were pushing for stop signs on Mission Ridge Drive at Locust Avenue as well as Swan Drive and the placement of high visibility crosswalks at that intersection as well as at Widgeon Way on Mission Ridge Drive by Quail Ridge Park. They also wanted stepped up traffic enforcement
Whether the requests for stop signs and high visibility crosswalks are pursued may depend upon how well the radar signs and bike lanes are in slowing down traffic.
The city initially did not put requested stop signs in on Powers Avenue at Hutchings Street accessing the Curran Grove neighborhood. The initial reason the city gave for nixing the stop signs was the possible impeding of the response time of fire engines from the nearby station located on Powers Avenue.
When City Councilwoman Debby Moorhead took city management staff to the intersection on an afternoon as school was letting out, they witnessed two near misses. The stop signs were in within a week. Besides being a crosswalk used to access Lincoln School, kids use it to reach Lincoln Park.
After Spreckels Avenue was punched through to Moffat Boulevard in 2001, traffic picked up significantly on South Powers Avenue creating a similar speeding problem to what Mission Ridge Drive has been experiencing as drivers started using the collector street as a short cut. The city’s response was to put bike lanes in place and narrow the travel lanes at intersections with islands that flared out in a tear-drop share to slow traffic along Powers at Marin, Trinity, and Yolo streets. An island was also placed on Powers at Moffat to stop vehicles from making the left turn onto northbound Powers too sharp.
Stop signs were also installed on Powers at the Marin Street intersection.
An 18-month review of department traffic enforcement efforts and collisions along Mission Ridge Drive through June showed:
36 citations were issued for speeding, vehicle right of way violations, failure to stop at posted strop signs, and various cell phone violations.
7 traffic collisions took place along the corridor. Five of those accidents took place at Mission Ridge Drive’s intersections with either South Union Road or South Main Street. They were due to red light violations or vehicle right-of-way violations.
The Manteca Police radar speed trailer has been placed on Mission Ridge Drive five times.
Police Chief Jodie Estarziau has said the department efforts target areas where collisions are regularly occurring in a bid to have the biggest impact on reducing unsafe driving. The department has three motorcycle officers assigned to the traffic division
In the 18 month period Manteca officers were dispatched to 1,400 traffic collisions — 946 in 2017 and 454 for the first six months of this year. There were 1,673 tickets issued for moving violations for speeding, rolling through stop signs, running red lights, texting while driving, and failure to yield to pedestrians and such during the month period.
Seven — or 0.5 percent — of the city’s 1,400 traffic accidents that MPD responded to took place on Mission Ridge Drive.
During the same time there were 84 collisions including 47 injury accidents and East/West Yosemite and 67 collisions including 31 injury accidents on North/South Main. The 131 accidents on the two streets represent almost 10 percent of all citywide collisions during the 18-month period.
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