By 2023 Moffat Boulevard — a stretch of pavement that for years you could go 15 minutes without seeing more than a handful of vehicles — will become one of the most congested streets in Manteca during certain periods of the day.
That’s because of two game changing developments that have been set in motion.
One is the advent of Altamont Corridor Express commuter train service starting in 2023. There will initially be eight trains — four departing in the morning to head toward San Jose and four returning in the afternoon and evening. ACE officials anticipate 1,500 passengers boarding each weekday when service starts.
The other is the reorientation of the front of Manteca High to Moffat Boulevard. This will bring increased vehicle and bus traffic. Student foot traffic won’t pick up instantly but as the student body swells from 1,700 to 2,250 to accommodate growth south of the 120 Bypass, so will the number of teens walking, bicycling or skate boarding across Moffat to reach Manteca High.
It is against this backdrop that the community is giving input on Monday at 6 p.m. at the transit station on a citywide truck route plan. The next night on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., elected leaders are seeking input on the general plan update. One of the key features — also a game changer — is creating a new central city zone designed to increase residential density to the point of critical mass needed to spur more intense commercial activities such as dining, retail, and entertainment.
All of this means traffic is going to pick up considerably on Moffat especially between Spreckels Avenue and Main Street.
There have already been a smattering of pedestrian versus vehicle incidents on the stretch of roadway that is 45 mph as it passes Spreckels Avenue and slows down to 35 mph as it nears Manteca High.
Moffat Boulevard is currently a truck route all the way to Main Street. There is also little parking on Moffat currently save for a few evenings at the Manteca Veterans Center and a sprinkling of semi-trucks parked overnight and truck trailers occasionally left without cabs.
What needs to be considered is how traffic will develop as Moffat develops and set in place protocols to deal with it as it occurs without waiting years or decades for a solution. Why that is important is it might be in the city’s best interest to plop a roundabout on Moffat at Sherman Avenue, Garfield Avenue or possibly both intersections. Both intersections are at an angle that creates visibility issues for a driver trying to turn onto Moffat. Adding increased foot and vehicle traffic will make it worse.
Right now trucks park near both Sherman and Garfield along Moffat creating visibility issues for pedestrians to see cars as well as drivers to see pedestrians.
The city may be able to extend the transit center parking down all the way to the Manteca Veterans Center parking lot to accommodate vehicle parking for ACE commuters. More likely than not, a number of those commuters will end up parking along Moffat.
It’s a perfect storm, if you’ll allow that over used phrase, in the making.
To avoid making a mess, the first step the city might want to entertain is ending the truck route at Eckert’s Cold Storage and the adjoining trucking firm terminal.
The entire length of Moffat being a truck route dates back to the days when it carried Highway 99 traffic. Then up until a few years ago there were major truck destinations on Moffat a mere block away from South Main Street. The Manteca Bean Co. has been gone for years and Perry & Son no longer runs hundreds upon hundreds of trucks a month to its scales on South Grant St.
Moffat also served as the best truck route through Manteca to reach a cheese processing plant, cannery and other industrial operations that have not existed for decades on Oak Street. The buildings there are no longer suited for firms that employ heavy semi-truck traffic to move goods.
Scaling back the truck route doesn’t prevent trucks from using the section near Main Street if they are making deliveries downtown. What it does do is get trucks to not go farther west on Moffat than the start of the storm basin/park. That would make truck parking illegal from the eastern edge of the storm basin to Main Street without the need to adopt an ordinance and erect signs. If police see a truck parked on the western section of Moffat they can ticket it.
It would resolve a big visual/safety issue created by the high sitting semi-trucks and trailers.
On the non-truck portion, red paint and no-parking zones are needed at intersections to assure maximum pedestrian safety. The same is true on the remaining part of Moffat that would still be a truck route where it intersects with Power Avenue and Cowell Street where the city has deliberately placed access points to the Tidewater Bikeway. Red zones here need to be longer to accommodate the fact trucks have a high profile.
The city could eliminate all parking on Moffat but that would only serve to encourage faster moving traffic. The on-street parking is likely to become invaluable as commuters flock to the ACE station. Banning the parking over six feet in height may make sense on the truck route portion that would remain on Moffat.
Planning for possible roundabouts now would leave options open as the city moves toward expanding transit center parking.
Roundabouts at Sherman and/or Garfield would slow traffic down which is a big deal. Traffic is not going 45 mph usually when it approaches the front of Manteca High on Yosemite Avenue. It is as it nears Manteca High on Moffat.
There is space to accommodate a roundabout for school buses — and the occasional delivery truck — at Sherman. A roundabout may also work at Garfield Avenue given the width of the street north of Moffat across from the municipal water treatment facility.
Why serious planning needs to be done now is simple. It is not conjecture that the two game changing projects are moving forward. Also, if the city blesses the new general plan it is being done with the idea of increasing congestion and the population in the city’s central core.
A game plan would allow the accommodation down the road of changes that would be needed to enhance safety, keep traffic moving and at the same the slow down traffic to make the area more livable.
Trucks and cars movements are vital. But they shouldn’t be at the expense of creating the best community — and downtown — as possible.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.