Woodward Avenue is the classic example of the old proverb, “A camel is a horse designed by a committee.”
Twenty-one years ago it was a straight, narrow country road starting at Moffat Boulevard that took you past almond orchards and small country estates to reach Manteca Waterslides before it took a sharp turn to head toward Turtle Beach Resort and the Wetherbee Lake neighborhood.
That all changed when the City of Manteca came along.
Today the segment that starts in the east is a wide four-lane thoroughfare complete with median and left turn lanes that encourages some motorists to push 50 mph and beyond. Neighborhoods are buffered from the roadway by landscaped masonry walls.
You will find no on-street parking along this stretch.
This is the stretch where there have been pedestrian fatalities and solo accidents that tend to make no sense — cars striking light poles and trees. Some attribute them to distracted driving at high rates of travel on a road that seems built for speed.
It then switches back — for the most part — to what it looked like 21 years ago. Upwards of 70 homes on parcels a half acre or larger front the sidewalk-less road where the aging asphalt drops off to dirt. Driveways are typically long enough you can park four cars bumper to bumper and then some.
As for “on-street parking” guests sometimes park on the dirt along the pavement’s edge as well as on grassy areas given there are no curbs, gutters, or sidewalks.
After that it turns into a two-lane boulevard-style road that was envisioned as a tree-line respite with eventually large tree canopies from the landscaped median shading the asphalt in summer. Unlike the segment near Woodward Park where homes are walled off from the street, the city required developers to have them face Woodward Avenue. Circular and hammer-head driveways were employed due to the shorter distance between the homes and the road that would make backing up into heavily traveled Woodward Avenue perilous.
On street parking areas are in periodic “turnouts” that can accommodate two cars.
The stretch is sprinkled with roundabouts to slow down traffic.
Once you go farther west, the city is now pursing residential development plans that abandon what you just drove through to revert it back — at least for the most part — to the broad roadway that passes Woodward Park with neighborhoods walled off to the street.
A new look for Woodward:
A hammerhead street
On Tuesday the Manteca City Council will add yet another look to Woodward Avenue.
In a bid to avoid having more new homes built that front Woodward Avenue with circular or hammerhead driveways that some council members contend have a high turnover rate because they aren’t what people really want, a small fill-in project of 13 homes is being considered that the council asked to be reconfigured.
The 3.6 acres on the southeast corner of Union Road and Woodward Avenue is proposed to accommodate 13 homes.
Eight of the lots for the reconfigured project will be accessed from a new hammerhead street from Kumara Street and Lovejoy Street in the existing Blossom Grove subdivision. The hammerhead will be separated from Woodward Avenue with an emergency access gate. The hammerhead will have a turnaround large enough for solid waste collection trucks and fire engines.
The project also involves a new type of “sound wall” for Manteca. Instead of the typical 7-foot wall along the Woodward Avenue frontage will include a steel tube fence sitting on a low masonry wall. Its purpose is to protect sight distance and minimize vehicular conflicts for those backing out of driveways from existing, older homes.
Woodward Avenue has become
Sybil of Manteca street planning
How Woodward Avenue became a Sybil of modern-day Manteca road planning has everything to do with rapid changes in growth strategies and a desire by elected leaders over the years not to disrupt the lifestyles of 70 plus homeowners whose residences almost all predate 1985.
Originally when Woodward Park and the surrounding neighborhoods broke ground in 1999, the city plan was to have Woodward Avenue be the main east-west corridor south of the 120 Bypass. That would eventually require the width of the street you see today in front of Woodward Park extend all the way to the west where Woodward Avenue makes a hard left toward Williamson Road.
That would mean the 70 homes west of Main Street would — in some cases — have a street within 10 feet of their front doors.
Developers then presented the city with a plan to pursue commercial and apartments immediately south of the 120 Bypass. The plan included present-day Atherton Drive located just a quarter of a mile north of Woodward Avenue.
Having two major east-west streets within a quarter of a mile of each other would have been overkill. Most major arterials in Manteca are spaced out in mile intervals as you move east-west and north-south.
When plans moved forward to build subdivisions west of Union Road, developers complied with design standards for Woodward Avenue they were presented by staff. But then the council at the time — seeing that it would create a replica of Woodward Avenue near Woodward Park — balked. When staff objected saying Woodward Avenue was a four-lane arterial in the city’s adopted general plan, the council pointed to the lunacy of having two major four-lane corridors parallel each other within a quarter of a mile
The council saw the 70 plus homeowners that would be caught in between as having a significant change in their lifestyle if that design was continued through the segment their homes lines or if nothing was done and the narrow Woodward Avenue became a tourniquet on traffic.
That is when the developers were asked by the council to change their submitted maps to build homes facing Woodward Avenue with the hammerhead and circular driveways.
Over the years other changes to Woodward Avenue had been suggested and dropped. The biggest one was to narrow Woodward Avenue between Main Street and Bridewell Avenue from four to two lanes to allow on-street diagonal parking for Woodward Avenue and to slow traffic.
Another change will be coming soon.
As part of the work Caltrans is starting in the fall of 2021 to improve the Highway 99/120 Bypass interchange and replace the Austin Road interchange, Woodward Avenue will no longer be a straight shot to Moffat Boulevard. Instead it will curve and connect with a new Austin Road alignment. Crossing the tracks will then require making a left turn on to a short road that will allow traffic to cross the tracks at a 90-degree angle as opposed to the current 45 degree angle that comprises sightlines.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org