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Moving at a crawl: Manteca pedestrian safety projects
Woodward Ave. ground zero for biggest concerns
The in-ground crosswalk flashers on Woodward Avenue at Wellington Avenue havent worked for 9 months. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

It took the City of Manteca 35 months to honor a promise the council made to residents living north of Woodward Park to place a crosswalk with a flashing beacon across Woodward Avenue — a street that some liken to a speedway  — at Buena Vista Drive.
Now the question some residents are asking is whether the city will take as long to replace in-ground pavement flashers across Woodward Avenue at Wellington Avenue that stopped working 9½ months ago.
The City Council over a year ago set aside $1 million to replace the Woodward/Wellington in-ground features with an overhead flashing beacon similar to the one at Woodward/Buena Vista. The funds are also supposed to cover the cost of a traffic analysis at Woodward and Pillsbury Road plus cover the cost of installing a highly visible three-way stop presumably using flashing red beacons.
Pedestrian safety first became an issue for parents north of Woodward Avenue seven years ago when Manteca Unified dropped their neighborhoods from school bus service in a bid to deal with budget cuts triggered by the Great Recession. As a result, between 100 and 200 school children walking to Woodward School had to cross the wide Woodward Avenue that is essentially five lanes once the middle turn lane is included.
While Manteca speed surveys continually show that 85 percent of the traffic stays at — or below — the posted speed limit of 45 mph, the stretch of Woodward between Pillsbury and Main Street has had an inordinate number of solo accidents where vehicles have taken out a number of trees and even struck light poles during a 10-year period. It is much like Louise Avenue between Main Street and the eastern most railroad crossing where a year doesn’t go by without a vehicle in a solo accident slamming into the sound walls.
Council makes pedestrian safety a priority but then it gets sidetracked
The City Council has repeatedly made pedestrian safety a priority and then had their directives languish due to staff being overburden with other projects or their policy decision being sidetracked by paid consultants.
That was the case at Woodward and Buena Vista. A city hired consultant paid $7,000 determined based on “acceptable standards” a crosswalk was not justified at that location.
The consultant noted during two-hour periods less than  40 pedestrians cross Woodward Avenue and most of them were joggers or people who were physically fit who could beat oncoming traffic if necessary. Standards call for at least 40 pedestrians crossing a street within a two-hour period to warrant crosswalks.
It was the same intersection where eventually a grandfather was killed midway across Woodward while pushing his grandson in a baby stroller to Woodward Park. The driver in that accident was determined to be going the speed limit. The driver told police he was blinded by the sun.
The analytic information did not note whether any of those two-hour periods that the consultant observed pedestrians involved times when kids were walking to and from Woodward School who had to cross Woodward Avenue. That’s a key point since the petition that included nearly 90 names originally circulated back in 2011 that prompted the council to give its tentative OK for a crosswalk was done so by parents concerned about their children’s safety going to and from school as well as generally accessing the park.
The council chose to not follow the consultant’s conclusion and called for the crosswalk to be put in place anyway.
Since then the death of three pedestrians in an 18-month period including a first grader walking to Shasta School and the grandfather who was pushing his grandson in a stroller at the midpoint of crossing Woodward Avenue, the council has been more aggressive in insisting quicker action on pedestrian safety issues.
In August of last year, residents of a new neighborhood south of Woodward Avenue near Pagola Avenue expressed concern about their children having to cross the busy roadway to reach Veritas School.  Staff determined conditions existed under the City Council adopted Pedestrian Safety and Crosswalk Installation Guidelines to place not just a crosswalk at the location but one that was highly visible.
Is pedestrian safety
in Manteca entering
another ice age?
In November of 2016 the council authorized an interim solution that is now in place — a crosswalk with powered flashing beacons mounted on the poles supported crosswalk warning signs. Staff at the time indicated the permanent solution would be placed on the list of capital improvement projects that need funding for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. That did not happen.
At the November meeting, Councilman Richard Silverman noted the city in the past seemed to move at “glacial speeds” on such crosswalk requests. In comparison he said the city’s response for the Pagola Avenue concern was “warp five.”
Whether the city is lapsing into another ice age when it comes to addressing pedestrian safety concerns has yet to be seen.
The uptick in attention to pedestrian safety led to the council decision to build a separate bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists at Union Road over the 120 Bypass that will mean they won’t have to cross on and off ramps that are being designed to move more vehicles as part of a diverging diamond design.
Originally staff had proposed directing pedestrians and bicyclists into a path in the middle of six lanes of traffic protected by railing or concrete K-rail — in order to cross the 120 Bypass as part of a diverging diamond design in a bid to cut costs. That would have required bicyclists and pedestrians to cross traffic four times to get across the 120 Bypass.
Currently none of the bridges that cross the 120 Bypass — Airport Way, Union Road, or Main Street — have sidewalks or protected bicycle lanes. The undercrossing for Van Ryn Avenue has a separate bicycle path.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email