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Time = money when talking traffic
20 seconds may help rein in costs for city, housing
Manteca is reexamining targeted traffic flow levels for new growth to determine if it can result in lower costs to taxpayers as well as lower costs for new housing. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Waiting up to 20 seconds longer at traffic signals on roads either yet to be built or widened in Manteca could reduce the rise in the cost of future housing as well as save future tax dollars when it comes to street maintenance.

Manteca is revisiting a general plan goal of level “C” service for traffic movements. Most cities the size of Manteca shoot for level “D” or even “E” due to cost considerations. The general plan is a state mandate planning document that cities must adopt to help serve as a blueprint to direct growth.

Reconsidering the service level to target with future growth is part of a council directive to staff to explore ways to reduce future costs on the general fund including long-term street maintenance as well as find ways to make housing more affordable.

At the same time any savings on growth fees charged for housing to pay for future major local roads will be more than negated by a new fee needed to come up with a large chunk of the $200 million-plus to upgrade interchanges 120 Bypass at Union Road, Airport Way, and Main Street; relocate Austin Road on Highway 99; and build an interchange at McKinley Avenue and the Highway 120 Bypass. Little if any state funds are expected to be available for any of the interchange work.

Currently there is a $2,700 fee per home built for transportation projects within Manteca. That does not include anything for interchange work.

There is also another fee that the city must collect for regional road needs in San Joaquin County that they have no control over. That fee costs $3,002 per home.

The six letters assigned by traffic engineers are not the same as academic grades. The level of service is assigned to time frames it takes on average for vehicles to clear an intersection.

In the case of an intersection with traffic signals, the letters mean the following:
•A: 10 seconds or less to cross the intersection after stopping.
•B: 10 to 20 seconds to clear the intersection after stopping.
•C: 20 to 35 seconds to clear the intersections after stopping.
•D: 35 to 55 seconds to clear the intersection after stopping.
•E: 55 to 80 seconds to clear the intersection after stopping.
•F: 80 seconds or more to clear the intersection after stopping.

The general plan targets new growth plus any improvements that have to be made to existing streets to meet service levels. It is a target, though and not set in stone. Yosemite and Center as well as Yosemite and Main, for example, sometimes have service levels slip to “E” and “F”. In order for it to be at “C” levels, it would require left turn lanes in all four directions, right turn lanes in all four directions and two through traffic lanes in all four directions.

That, of course, would require removal of sidewalks and buildings making it unrealistic.

At the same time, Atherton Drive at Union Road has been designed to meet “C” level traffic including six lanes on Union.

Had it been designed for one service level lower, there would have been significantly less pavement. Less pavement means less long-term maintenance costs.

A survey of city streets shows that the 191 total centerline miles of municipal roadways have a pavement condition index of 75.  That means, on average, they’ve got 75 percent of their life expectancy left. That compares to the Bay Area average of 70 percent. Manteca’s better position has a lot to do with the fact most roads here are newer.

Manteca is now spending an average of $500,000 a year on road maintenance projects. But the pavement management study shows that amount needs to be kicked up to $1.3 million annually for the next three years just to maintain the current level of quality.

The study showed that the existing 191 miles of Manteca roads have a replacement value of $79.8 million. That includes 32 miles of arterials, 26 miles of collectors, and 133 miles of collector streets.

In addition to addressing ideal traffic levels, staff is exploring creating an expressway using roundabouts with access only at key intersections for McKinley Avenue when it swings east to join the new alignment of McKinley Avenue in south Manteca.