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Reduce Bypass carnage
Mayor wants push for warning signs, more lanes
ACCIDENT 120 BYPASS1 9-15-14
A fatal accident that happened in 2014 on the 120 Bypass. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum vows to form a regional coalition of elected leaders aimed at bringing safety improvements to the deadly section of the 120 Bypass eastbound between Main Street and Highway 99.

DeBrum noted rarely are Manteca residents involved in any of the crashes that happen at least every two days.

“Most of them are from Modesto, (Stanislaus County), and elsewhere,” the mayor noted. “People in Manteca are well aware of the dangers of (the 120 Bypass).”

There have been nine deaths and more than 410 injuries in the past 70 months on the stretch of the 120 Bypass.

 The mayor used Tuesday’s City Council meeting to share that he has had conversations with San Joaquin Council of Governments and Caltrans officials who noted that warning signs using real time traffic conditions are being proposed not only for the 120 Bypass but also along Highway 99 as it approaches the interchange.

DeBrum was told studies are needed to make sure the warning signs are properly placed in an effort to eliminate any liability Caltrans might incur by installing them. The studies are expected to take six to seven months to complete.

The automated warning system would include changeable message boards specifically for traffic slowdowns. It would include four monitoring stations and a closed circuit TV station. It is designed to increase awareness of real time traffic conditions ahead and allow motorists to adjust top traffic congestion ahead.

Caltrans is targeting environmental clearance next spring with construction in fall of 2016.

“I passed an accident on the 120 Bypass on the way here tonight,” DeBrum told those in an attendance at the council meeting. “This time it was in the left hand lane.”

DeBrum said virtually every driver in Manteca knows about the slowdown coming up on the transition to southbound Highway 99 and how many impatient drivers — or motorists unfamiliar with the 120 Bypass — will cut over at the last second causing the right lane traffic flow to suddenly slow down. The vast majority of the accidents are rear-end collisions caused by the “Slinky” effect of the right lane during heavy traffic.

DeBrum said he wants the city to contact Assembly member Kristen Olsen, R-Modesto, to enlist her support to make sure Caltrans makes the warning signs a top “immediate” priority and not let other projects push it to the way side,.

He hopes to do the same thing with other jurisdictions in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties whose residents drive the 120 Bypass to reach jobs in the Bay Area, Tracy, and Lathrop.

He also would like to see a regional effort organized to lobby the state to get additional connector lanes from the 120 Bypass to Highway 99. The SJCOG is working with Caltrans to add connector lanes. The goal is to have plans and documents in place to capture future transportation funding with a Measure K match to have the work done by 2019.

DeBrum wants unified lobbying in place to make sure the new connector lanes are indeed put in place during 2019 if not sooner.

SJCOG has also added a project to its list of targeted future endeavors to widen the 120 Bypass to six lanes at a cost of $95 million. The earliest that could happen currently is in 2040.

A snapshot of just one year — 2013 — shows more than 220 accidents occurred along the 6.2-mile 120 Bypass with the overwhelming majority between the midpoint between the Union Road and Main Street interchanges and the Highway 99 transition.

Manteca resident Judy Minton has launched a Facebook page dubbed “Highway 120 East at Highway 99” in a bid to build grassroots support for 120 Bypass safety improvements.