The days of the controversial landscaping bulb-outs in the 100 block of North Main Street in downtown Manteca may be numbered.
The Manteca City Council at Mayor Steve DeBrum’s request will consider four options for the bulbs when they meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.
The four options are:
uLeave the six bulbs and two median planters intact.
uRemove some of the bulbs to create more parking.
uTake out all five bulbs on the west side of the street and eliminate all parking on the west side. This would allow a second southbound lane replacing the single 12-foot travel lane now in place with two 10-foot travel lanes. It would make turns into parking lots harder for larger vehicles to navigate.
uRemove all bulbs and eliminate parking on both sides of the street and relocate the medians. This would allow two southbound lanes and one northbound lane as well as bike lanes in both directions to comply with a state law that mandates the inclusion of all non-motorized used in all street designs. The bike lanes would have the added bonus of allowing more space for vehicles to turn into parking lots. The medians would be relocated to allow for more cars in the left turn lanes to westbound Center Street and eastbound Yosemite Avenue. The medians were put in place to block cross-street movements from alleys and parking lots that created safety issues and often backed up traffic.
The bulbs put in place during 2005 after a group of downtown merchants convinced the council at the time parking was needed on Main Street. The council was considering eliminating parking in the 100, 200, and 300 blocks of North Main Street. Leading the charge was the owner of a pest control company in the 200 block of North Main who worried that eliminating parking would kill any drop-in business he might get. The pest control firm moved several years later.
The bulb-outs were part of an overall downtown design plan to beautify the city’s core. Their use on Yosemite and Maple was to enhance landscaping and make it easier to park.
On Main Street aesthetics were a goal but the main reason they were put in place was to deliberately slow down traffic passing through downtown.
A traffic consultant at the time claimed his firm surveyed Manteca residents and found almost 9 out of 10 residents contacted said they used Main Street to access downtown.
A flaw in the survey question — not asking what the respondent’s perception of downtown was — surfaced in a follow-up by the Bulletin where 10 people contacted at random gave wildly different versions of what they believed downtown to include. Several included Wal-Mart and K-Mart as well as the Save-Mart shopping center. The skewed consultant survey prompted one council member — who was unaware at time of the shaky premise of the question asked of respondents — to change his planned vote allowing the bulb plan to go forward on a 3-2 vote with then Mayor Willie Weatherford and then Councilman voting no.
In November 2009 Debby Moorhead was the first council member to declare publically that the bulbs on North Main Street should be taken out. The Manteca Business Association that had been formed several months earlier made the removal of the bulbs as one of their top priorities for downtown.
At this year’s Feb. 16 council meeting DeBrum declared “I’m man enough to say” that his vote 11 years ago to go with bulb outs along Main Street in downtown Manteca was a big mistake.
Councilman Vince Hernandez agreed with DeBrum’s sentiments. Hernandez added the medians needed to be addressed as well so the turn pockets could accommodate more vehicles to avoid backing up thru traffic.
The third and fourth options could require some form of environmental review under state law before they could proceed.
The second option of taking out the bulbs for additional parking could be done by city work crews at a cost of $500 per bulb for materials to stub and cap water lines as well as for pavement work.
The third option involving moving the five bulbs could cost up to $80,000. It would involve demolition, pavement reconstruction, traffic loop relocations, traffic signal modifications, and restriping of lanes.
The fourth option would have additional cost due to the bike lanes but because of those lanes could qualify for additional transportation funding.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com