Manteca’s City Council needs to step up.
The revelation that the 100 block of North Main Street is about to become the most expensive stretch of pavement in Manteca with the price tag of $1 million to rip out the much maligned bulb-outs and create two southbound lanes and one northbound lane while making the street whole again could make this a banner year for merchants selling pitchforks and tar.
On one level it boggles the mind that for what it once cost to build a linear mile of freeway 30 years ago will barely cover the cost of switching one lousy fairly short city block from two lanes to three lanes.
It isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Irrigation pipes have to be removed. Concrete ripped out. New medians need to be put in place. Traffic loops and signals modified. New pavement put down and new stripes painted. But still — $1 million?
I get that this is California. I get that this is 2016.
That said what I don’t get is the Manteca City Council proceeding with what is essentially a Band-Aid solution that carries a $1 million price tag.
What our elected leaders need to do is call for a timeout and revisit the 100 block of North Main Street.
This is not to say they should reverse their decision to take out the bulbs. Far from it.
What they need to do is ask the question no one has asked: How long will the $1 million fix work?
In case no one at city hall noticed they just widened Main Street between Northgate Drive and Lathrop Road to four lanes. Plans call for Main Street — from the 120 Bypass south to Woodward Avenue and beyond — to eventually be four lanes. It is just a matter of time before the tourniquet between Alameda Street and Yosemite Avenue has to be four lanes as well.
No, I am not a traffic engineer. But I am someone who has spent the last 25 years on a daily basis trying to drive or cross Main Street to get around the town I live and work in and have had to deal with some rather colossal snafus created on the recommendation of carpet bagger traffic engineers.
And I’m not talking just about the 100 block of North Main going from two lanes to three lanes, back to two lanes, and now apparently to three lanes again.
Does anyone remember the traffic engineer in 1992 who convinced the council at the time that the answer was banning left turns from southbound Main Street to eastbound Yosemite Avenue? It was supposed to save us all from backed up traffic blocking the Center Street intersection.
Instead it gave Manteca Police traffic officers writing cramps and made motorists stuck behind those waiting to make an illegal left turn more frustrated.
What needs to happen in the 100 block of North Main Street — especially if taking the bulb-outs and making the block whole again is going to cost $1 million — is for this council to not beat around the bush and go for the ultimate solution for traffic flow that stops short of ripping out sidewalks as well as storefronts.
They need to go for four travel lanes now and not three travel lanes and a left turn lane. It’s an option that staff did not offer because it isn’t needed now. That said it will eventually be needed so why should this council create a situation where a future council in relatively short order may have to plunk down another $1 million to make that happen?
Instead of medians, put in place a concrete rail perhaps topped with a wrought iron fence to discourage jaywalking or bicyclists from hopping the concrete.
Then put two travel lanes in each direction going to a point just north of Center Street.
Then the traffic signals on Main Street at both Center Street and Yosemite Avenue can be set so all northbound traffic goes including left turns go on one green and the light changes to allow all southbound traffic movements while northbound traffic stops.
At some point in the future, North Main between Center and Alameda Street will need to be four lanes as well and on-street parking eliminated. When that day comes the city won’t have to redo the 100 block of North Main Street.
Meanwhile traffic will flow even smoother on Main Street.
So why doesn’t a traffic engineer suggest doing this? The short answer: Job security.
Incremental changes mean more environmental studies, more engineering work, and more paychecks.
Does the current council want to be known as the five folks that gave Manteca its first $1 million block of asphalt only in 10 years or so for another council to spend another $1 million to do what the current council should have had the foresight to do — make the 100 block of North Main Street four lanes?
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.