Likening Woodward Avenue to the infamous — and deadly — Highway 84 commuter shortcut in Livermore, frustrated parents Tuesday demanded the Manteca City Council take steps to slow traffic.
The pleas came less than a week after a driver — reportedly blinded by the afternoon sun — struck and killed a grandfather and seriously injured the 2-year-old grandson he was pushing in a stroller as they were in the crosswalk on Woodward Avenue at Wellington Avenue. Manteca Police have indicated the driver was not exceeding the posted speed limit. Witnesses have said the crosswalk flashers imbedded in the placement were on at the time of the crash.
Dawn Ribeiro said afternoon commuters trying to avoid the congested and deadly Highway 120 Bypass transition to Highway 99 switch to surface streets in significant numbers and drive through the neighborhood and past Woodward Park with little regard for the speed limit and safety of others. She drew the connection to Highway 84 noting it too is used to avoid a congested interchange of two freeways — Interstates 560 and 680.
Riberio and others who addressed the council want to see the four-lane segment of Woodward Avenue between Main Street and Atherton Drive narrowed to two lanes plus put in bike lanes and possibly parking in a bid to slow traffic. They’d also like to see the 45 mph speed limit lowered at least to 30 mph. Other suggestions included putting more traffic signals along Woodward Avenue especially at Wellington Avenue or putting in place roundabouts.
Gary Singh noted speeding is also a problem on the other three streets bordering Woodward Avenue —— Buena Vista Drive, Bridewell Avenue, and Heartland Drive. He’d like to see speed bumps put in place. He said it is especially dangerous when the park is being used for soccer games as kids and others will step between cars trying to cross the streets.
Ironically a number of the suggestions made by residents on Tuesday for Woodward Avenue — reducing it to two lanes, adding bike lanes, and adding parking — were advocated by former Mayor Willie Weatherford in 2011 as a way to slow traffic down and partially resolve Woodward Park’s parking problems on the weekend and make it safer for pedestrians to cross Woodward Avenue. The ideas were put into a more detail proposal by staff only to see Woodward Park neighborhood residents pressure the council to reject the idea.
The city at the same time took nearly five years to get in place a crosswalk with flashing lights at Buena Vista Dive on Woodward Avenue after they agreed with petitions submitted by parents living in the neighborhood north of Woodward Avenue and Woodward Park that it was needed to enhance pedestrian safety for students walking to nearby Woodward School. The crosswalk improvements were installed late last year.
Resident Cindy Gomez related how she and her daughter almost got struck by a car recently while in a Woodward Avenue crosswalk at a point where they had almost reached the curb on the other side. She implored the council to do something so the community would “not lose another soul” in a pedestrian-car accident on Woodward Avenue.
The council, on advisement from City Attorney John Brinton, did not directly respond to any comments. Brinton noted there is an active investigation underway into the cause of the accident and that there could be litigation as a result of the accident. Sometimes in fatal accidents one or more parties will try to sue local jurisdictions arguing road conditions as designed or maintained were contributing factors to the accident.
The city a number of years ago eliminated plans to develop Woodward Avenue as a four lane road west of Main Street. Instead it developed as a two-lane road with a tree-lined median in a bid to retrain the semirural character of the existing neighborhoods plus slow down traffic.
Once the missing link of Atherton Drive went in between Main Street and a point west of Wellington Avenue opened, it provided another way to reach Moffat. Eventually Atherton will be extended south of Woodward into the envisioned 1,042-acre Austin Road Business Park.
Austin Road Business Park wasn’t even on the drawing board or considered a possibility when Woodward Avenue was originally designated as a future four-lane road. The fact Atherton Drive is about a quarter of a mile to the north was one reason the city noted that made four lanes on Woodward Avenue west of Main Street unnecessary.
Weatherford argued Woodward Avenue was wide enough near the park that there would still be room for a “parking lane” where vehicles can use to look for a diagonal parking space without impeding through traffic.
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