Downtown Manteca is the ultimate Rubik’s Cube.
Every time a reasonable solution is floated taking into account all the moving parts the proverbial brick wall is hit. It is a given there is no perfect solution. Someone loses, something has to give, and there are tradeoffs.
There have been countless ideas floated from turning Center and Yosemite into one-way streets to Mayor Ben Cantu’s idea to divert the traffic on Yosemite for six blocks to allow the creation of a pedestrian friendly stretch and everything in between.
The latest idea being championed by Councilman Gary Singh among others has a lot of appeal.
The key component is constructing a two-lane extension of Moffat Boulevard paralleling the Tidewater Bikeway for a ways behind the 100 and 200 blocks of West Yosemite. It would tie into Moffat Boulevard at its intersection with Main Street and intersect with Yosemite Avenue near Library Park.
The casualties to make it work would be Regal Signs, a taqueria, and Don’s Mobile Glass.
The positive aspects of the proposal are numerous.
It takes into account that Yosemite Avenue is the only east-west street in Manteca that connects commercial areas on both sides of the city with the central district. Also either along Yosemite or within three or so blocks is Manteca’s two hospitals, two of its three high schools, and similar community facilities.
At the same time it acknowledges that moving traffic from the growing southeast area of city to Main Street in downtown is limited as Yosemite Avenue could never be widened to four lanes without wiping out all on-street parking spaces. This is a major concern given Manteca with 84,500 residents today could easily be at 120,000 by 2040.
The flip is also true. Yosemite through the heart of downtown could never be narrowed to widen sidewalks that is key to encouraging the type of restaurants many say they’d like to see with expansive outside dining. Not only would it allow dining patios but it would allow trees that will really provide shady and appealing canopies such as sycamores that you find in Library Park to be planted.
It would allow the city to bring a four-lane road into downtown from the southeast — Moffat Boulevard. The design for the Highway 120 Bypass/Highway 99 upgrade calls for a new Austin Road interchange and the creation of robust tie-in with Moffat Boulevard that will have improved connections to the fast growing southeast Manteca as well as Atherton Drive.
Manteca High’s public face within two years will be off of Moffat complete with a new gym and swimming pool as well as access to the football stadium and more.
The City of Manteca’s most inspiring municipal building — the Manteca Transit Center with a four-faced clock tower — is on Moffat. The transit center, by the way, is an ideal location for a “remote” community access point for basic city services such as bill paying should the city opt to go that route in the future.
Moffat Boulevard can easily accommodate four lanes with a turning lane. And because it connects with Spreckels Avenue that runs between Moffat and Yosemite, those residing west of Main Street that want to reach Target and the surrounding commercial area can bypass downtown traffic with a slightly out of the way route that will be faster thanks to only dealing with T-intersection and almost no concerns on the south side expect for the Manteca Veterans Center, the transit center, and three private properties.
It is a solution that can address not just downtown but also further transform the Moffat corridor and finding a more effective way to connect growing southeast Manteca to the central part of the city where the high school from students living in that area happens to be located.
Such a move would need an aggressive planning effort to not just upgrade the appeal of buildings along the south side of the 100 and 200 blocks of West Yosemite but to create dual entrances, front and rear. Actually it creates a new canvas, if you will, to significantly overhaul facades in ways you can’t do now with business fronts flush to the sidewalks along Yosemite.
And by creating two vibrant east-west streets between the western apex of downtown at Library Park and Manteca High you will plant the seeds for true urban renewal efforts such as apartment complexes, buildings with ground level commercial space and/or offices with residential uses above between Yosemite and Moffat.
There is one big drawback.
If getting grade separation of the railroad tracks is a priority that means one of the logical candidates is Main Street given its Manteca’s key north-south commercial corridor. It also happens to run between two freeways — the 120 Bypass and Highway 99.
The Moffat/Main intersection is clearly too close for an underpass of the tracks. If both an underpass and the bypass to connect with Moffat went forward, it is possible to make the underpass longer so Moffat Boulevard crosses over it via a bridge with no way for vehicles to access Main.
That, however, would defeat a big chunk of the bypass effort of Yosemite traffic for east-west motorists as it wouldn’t allow turns onto Main Street.
The only way for the latest idea for downtown to get traction is to chuck the idea forever to do a grade separation of the tracks at Main Street.
So like everything else downtown, there is a major policy decision that could derail things moving forward and creating enough support and steam, if you will, to move such an idea down the tracks.
The need to relocate three businesses if this is deemed the best route is background noise compared to the issue of the grade separation.
What is needed with any idea for downtown plan is buy-in and commitment so it will survive numerous council election cycles.
The one that Singh happens to be championing that actually incorporates the gist of Cantu’s latest vision effectively exposes what may be the real pitfall in moving things to the next level in the central district.
Manteca cannot separate its downtown from other development and growth decisions in the community due to its the unique location still at the geographic center of the city after 102 years, the extremely robust railroad presence destined to become even stronger, the city’s street system, and the fact growth is occurring in all four directions.
Just like with a Rubik’s Cube where you can’t simply worry about getting just one color in alignment as the other colors will be out of whack, the same is true of downtown and how the rest of Manteca develops.