Councilman Gary Singh has sized up the latest showdown over the long promised traffic congestion relief project for North Main Street through downtown Manteca as the dream versus the nightmare.
The dream — a walkable Main Street with expansive sidewalk cafes and a roadway that ultimately could be reduced to two lanes as you head north with traffic signals ripped out and replaced with roundabouts.
The nightmare — the daily traffic congestion that will only get worse as Manteca grows to the north and south toward a 116,000 population within the next 20 years or so with no additional north-south arterial planned.
For the seventh time in 31 years the City Council Tuesday will debate the fate of North Main Street through downtown. Three different traffic consultants — including one that came up with the infamous no left turn movements from Main to Yosemite that was widely ignored and led to weekly accidents —failed to unsnarl the traffic congestion the two lane tourniquet on Main Street through downtown creates.
The end result after every adjustment made on the advice of traffic consultants has been increased traffic congestion and more people taking short cuts on the narrow streets of nearby neighborhoods.
The latest rethink came after staff convinced the council to pause going to bid several months ago on a holistic plan that would have finally widened Main Street to four travel lanes with a center lane for turn movements while addressing local flood issues and creating a visual statement one is entering the downtown area by the use of colored pavers.
The pavers also have a longer life than asphalt plus eliminate unsightly patches when utility work occurs as pavers can simply be removed and then replaced after necessary work is done.
The staff’s rational for convincing the council to “pause” on going to bid and rethink what they were about to do was as follows:
*Keeping Main Street two lanes is critical for a do over of downtown.
*The council was essentially wrongheaded for viewing Main Street through downtown as a traffic movement issue and not one where traffic can be slowed down to encourage the development of downtown by widening sidewalks to allow things such as outdoor dining along the edge of Main Street.
For their presentation Tuesday, staff is pitching a two-prong approach to evaluating traffic movements on Main Street by addressing traffic engineering and economic development.
The engineered component will analyze short term improvements on Main Street to provide immediate relief to congestion, mostly, but not limited to, Main Street between Yosemite and Center. To accomplish this, staff contracted with GHD, a Traffic Engineering Consultant firm to provide an updated traffic/improvement analysis for City Council’s consideration.
The economic development component will evaluate the impact of the proposed five lane configuration on Main Street to existing downtown businesses and future downtown growth. Staff subsequently contracted with Civilis, an Economic Development consultant, who has extensive experience with revitalizing Downtown business districts.
That means the city has essentially added two more consultants to Manteca’s ever growing list of outside experts that have done little to alter the character or traffic issues in downtown Manteca during the past three decades.
Singh advocates treating
Main as a traffic congestion
issue, not an economic matter
“One is a hope and dream and the other is a hard-fast reality (in the form of a) traffic nightmare,” Singh said in reference to the staff’s options.
He is all for wider sidewalks and downtown al fresco dining but on Yosemite Avenue and not Main Street.
Singh has a vision for Yosemite Avenue that aligns with one expressed by Mayor Ben Cantu’s to make that street more walkable with the added proviso of eventually shifting through east-west traffic as Yosemite passes Library Park behind existing structures on the south side of the street to connect with Moffat.
Such long-range improvements for downtown, Singh insists, are best separated from Main Street. He believes the loss of Main Street as a north-south arterial as well as not improving traffic flow on it will have severe ramifications throughout Manteca as it would leave Airport Way and Union Road as the only remaining north-south arterials in a city of 87,000 headed for 116,000 people in the next 20 years or so.
What Singh favors doing on North Main is:
*Going with four lanes instead of five lanes. He refers to the fifth lane which is a continuous left turn lane as a “suicide lane.”
*Widen the lanes to 11 feet from the proposed 10 feet and have a narrow raised concrete median down center.
*Coordinate traffic signals so the inside lanes in each direction can turn left or go straight on a green light just as they do now on Spreckels Avenue/Moffat Boulevard as well as Yosemite Avenue/Northwoods Avenue where they have been proven to be effective at moving high volumes of traffic.
*Such signal configurations when north traffic has a green at a different time than south traffic reduces the traffic light changes at an intersection.
The council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org