Work to eliminate a traffic tourniquet on Louise Avenue just east of Cottage Avenue that poses a safety hazard for pedestrians is finally moving forward.
Manteca Public Works Director Mark Houghton anticipates actual construction to be underway by mid-2013 on the short stretch of roadway. Its news that neighborhood residents have been waiting to hear since 2006 when the City Council at the time promised to make connecting sidewalk with two established neighborhoods to a small retail center on the north and to St. Mary’s Church on the south a priority.
The travel lanes along the segment being widened are narrow and the pavement has washboard like texture between filled in potholes. Pedestrians are forced to walk close to the 45 mph traffic due to a narrow, dirt shoulder. And when it rains, pedestrians often walk on the roadway to traverse the segment creating a safety hazard. The pavement is also too narrow to safely accommodate a bicyclist and vehicle heading in the same direction.
To expedite matters, an existing public works staff member is being shifted into a vacant traffic-related position. That will allow the city to do work they need to complete in order to take advantage of $967,440 in statewide Proposition 1B bond money the city has been awarded. The state will take back the funds if work along the Louise Avenue corridor isn’t started before June 30.
Houghton said property owners have already indicated they will provide the right of way. That will allow the design to move forward and the contacts made to have PG&E relocate power poles that need to be moved. When done, there will be sidewalk on both sides of Louise Avenue with the width of the roadway matching the stretch of Louise between the Highway 99 overpass and Cottage Avenue.
Houghton said bond money not needed to cover the cost of widening the targeted segment will be used to make pavement improvements elsewhere on Louise Avenue.
Once the widening east of Cottage Avenue is completed, that will leave four segments of Louise Avenue to widen between the city limits from just west of Austin Road and the Lathrop city limits.
The Louise Avenue crossing of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks between Airport Way and Union Road was originally targeted and funded in 2007. But in trying to move the crossing widening forward when work done to construct four lanes between the tracks and Airport Way the city hit a snag with Union Pacific Railroad.
Then after the rest of the road was widened, UP in 2008 was able to move forward and widened the concrete panels for the vehicle crossing during a period of scheduled maintenance on the heavily traveled track line.
The road widening was scheduled for 2009 but there was one approval that was still needed from the California Public Utilities Commission. Once the road is widened, a valve station controlling pipeline flow would be too close to the road. That meant an additional improvement with modifications.
Everything finally fell in line in 2011 allowing Manteca to enter the final design phase and then go to bid. But before that could happen, the engineer working on the project at City Hall was laid off as part of the cutbacks to balance the general fund budget. That was 14 months ago.
Once the railroad crossing is widened to four lanes and the segment east of Cottage is completed, it will leave three segments of Louise Avenue within the city limits that will still be two lanes. And each two-lane segment is boxed in by four lanes.
Those segments are:
• From Airport Way to the Lathrop city limits.
• A small stretch east of North Main Street.
• The bridge crossing of Highway 99.
The most costly of the three would be the overcrossing and section east of North Main Street. Bridge structures cost well in excess of $8 million while the short segment would require extensive property acquisition.
The city has always expected the developer of the now dormant Villa Ticino East project south of the Manteca Unified School District office complex to pay for most of the widening work between the Lathrop city limits and Airport Way when they do start developing.
Manteca has floated the idea of using future Measure K funds to eventually obtain property and widen the narrow stretch of Louise just east of Main Street.