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Which way should Maple Avenue go?
Councilman Vince Hernandez asked for staff to study the possibility of making Maple Avenue one-way traffic go north instead of south. - photo by RYAN BALBUENA
Which way is right when it comes to the 100 block of North Maple Avenue - southbound or northbound?

The answer to that question first posed in 2005 and rekindled in September in the heat of the Manteca City Council campaign may take a little longer than originally expected.

Public Works Director Mark Houghton is in the process of putting together a meeting with downtown merchants, those involved in the original downtown planning committee, and the community in general in the coming weeks to explore various options.

Maple Avenue was a two-way street until mid-2005. That’s when the City Council at the time decided to make it one-way southbound to address three traffic concerns. They were:

•Traffic backups on eastbound Yosemite Avenue that often went beyond the railroad tracks when cars tried to run left on to Maple Avenue during peak afternoon hours.

•Congestion at Center Street and Maple Avenue.

•Double parking in front of the post office.

The one-way solution was essentially to address major traffic flow issues caused by people going to and from the main post office on the southwest corner of Center and Maple.

At the same time, the city approached the Manteca Postmaster about relocating drop-off mail boxes from the alley next to the Post Office to the city parking lot across the street. They even designed it to accommodate driver side drop-offs instead of what happens now with people going to the wrong side of the alley to drop off mail. It also was designed to eliminate congestion at the alley crossing that is heavily used by pedestrians. The Postal Service declined the city’s effort to improve traffic safety and vehicle flow.

Councilman Vince Hernandez on Sept. 21 had asked for some type of staff report on what to do with Maple Avenue - if anything - by November.

In early November, staff provided a status report that included the observation that in order to flip the direction of one-way traffic in the 100 block of N. Maple Avenue from southbound onto northbound without creating major back-ups on Yosemite Avenue will require putting in place a left turn pocket from eastbound Yosemite to southbound.

That would require the elimination of at least three parking spaces in front of the India Merchandise Store. The existing parking configuration - and what would be in place if the direction of Maple Avenue flipped - would not cost any parking in front of stores along Maple Avenue.

Houghton said the community meeting will have staff presenting various options and then listen to feedback.

“We’re going to keep an open mind,” Houghton said. “We want to do what is best whether it is something else or what is in place right now.”

Houghton added, though, that reverting Maple Avenue to a two-way street wasn’t a viable option since it would worsen traffic conditions instead of just altering patterns.

Council last month instructed staff to involve the general community - including those that worked on the original plans for downtown that led to the downtown traffic changes such as the bulbs.

It was from those citizens that the need to eliminate left turns from Yosemite to Maple to avoid daily occurring traffic back-ups on Yosemite was brought to city officials’ attention.

A report on possible options of what could be done to Maple Avenue if the City Council so desired to change the current configuration is expected to be completed sometime in the next month.

The work was part of a $3 million investment of redevelopment agency funds in downtown that got the broad support - but not 100 percent approval - of downtown merchants and property owners.

Hernandez got the council to agree to revisit Maple Avenue traffic movements at the request of some Maple Avenue merchants.