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‘F’: That’s the letter grade of downtown traffic & Manteca City Council leadership
main traffic
Main Street through downtown has been in the thorn of the side of a number of Manteca residents for decades.

It’s time to ask the question: Just who is setting policy for the City of Manteca?

It clearly isn’t the Manteca City Council.

That’s based on the running joke.

You know the one. It’s called Main Street through downtown.

Three City Councils defined by the composition of the council after elections every two years have issued explicit policy instructions regarding the stretch of Main Street from Yosemite Avenue to Alameda Street.

Three City Councils have approved municipal budgets with funding for implementation of their policy.

Three City Councils have been on the verge of either going to bid or executing a contract to make their policy a reality.

And three distinct city management hierarchies have found ways to derail said project.

If there was indeed a purge going on at 1001 West Center Street it certainly isn’t to the benefit of those that have to put up with broken council promises day in and day out as they navigate through the downtown mess that has been a problem for 35 years and counting.

Now for some more good news: Your tax dollars have been spent on another consultant that has determined there is no real problem on Main Street. The congestion is all in our collective heads.

You know — us. The people who actually live here that have to go through the daily mess. Traffic often backs up two to three blocks. The intersection at Main and Center that manages to get blocked more than a few times on every week day and once in a while on Saturdays. The joy of people saving time by taking long cuts around the Main Street mess down nearby streets where those that can’t afford to make $1 million offers on homes reside.

And all for what — so some bureaucrat with a savior complex can “save downtown” and “save Manteca” from itself by spending $800,000 plus on another downtown study that when all is said and done undermines the will of the people that pay their salaries?

Yes, it may sound wacko to those with degrees in urban planning but the elected leaders of this city didn’t pop some LSD and decide it would be groovy to make Main Street four lanes through downtown. It is in response to years — decades — of frustration with traffic that not only have they observed and experienced but so do the people that elected them.

Yet the bureaucrats need to be defended a tad on this one although not by a lot.

You know the general plan? It’s the blueprint, or bible if you will, for all policies and goals tied to Manteca’s growth.

Here’s the funny thing. Not only does the current general plan in effect adopted by a previous council and embraced by the current council that has not sought to change it but also the general plan update that the city has been working on since the start of the Trump Administration contains verbiage that says the traffic mess downtown is OK.

There’s a concept called “level of serve” or LOS. It is traffic jargon for the level of traffic flow. “A” is free flow conditions. “F” is severe congestion.

The general plan calls for the city to target at least a “D” level of service throughout Manteca. There is one glaring exception the city carved out. It is downtown. It includes the stretch on Main Street in question as well as Yosemite Avenue from the train tracks to Powers Avenue. Would you be surprised to know “F” is acceptable under the general plan for downtown?

That begs the second part of the question: Is this council going to do what their predecessors did and fail the people of Manteca to appease high ranking bureaucrats?

Part of the answer arrived after last Tuesday’s council meeting. The staff got the council to back off on making another “final” decision back in October on what to do with Main Street by promising to come back with alternatives at a January council meeting at the latest. Unless someone is working from a calendar where January goes on for infinity, there are six days left before that promise joins the growing pile of broken promises brought to you by the folks at 1001 West Center Street.

With all due respect, Charlie Brown is less a sucker when he falls for Lucy each time  promising not to pull the football away at the last second as he runs up to kick it and then ends up falling flat in his back.

Like it or not, the Main Street game city staff is playing makes the council seem cartoonish if not an outright joke.

As much as one would like to lay the blame at the feet of those pulling down six figures, the cold truth is the council is to blame.

Call it lack of backbone. Call it being played. Call it whatever you want but don’t call it leadership.

The reason this city wastes inordinate amounts of money and time on studies by consultants is that elected officials at the end of the day do not take a solid position and then hold staff’s feet to the fire.

There is not a clamor from downtown for an $800,000 study. There is never ending demand that is never met for the city to simply maintain what they have that would certainly do a lot to add to the appeal of the central district to potential patrons and investors alike.

Fix tripping hazards on sidewalks. Replace broken chunks of curb. Upgrade alleys and potholes. Do something about the homeless that bed down illegally in front of stores. Add street lighting between Garfield and Lincoln on Yosemite Avenue. Revive the successful facade improvement program. Aggressively go after the small handful of “slum” landlords that spoil the appeal of downtown. Fix the traffic mess on Main Street.

Not only does the city not need an $800,000 study to know it needs to do those things and more but they need to be done regardless whether an $800,000 study is done.

The time to break the stalemate on Main Street and downtown is now.

The council can start by making it clear that it is their will is what will be done when it comes to four lanes.

Then, once they’re done that, they can direct staff to revive the downtown plan that was produced as part of Vision 2020 and continue with its implementation.

It is the plan that set in motion the Library Park expansion. It is the plan that established the downtown focal point in the form of the transit center with a large community room and plazas designed as gathering places. It is the plan that put in place a successful facade improvement program, replaced run-of-the-mill traffic street lights with stylish themed standards, gave birth to the community-based mural project, and put in place streetscape including crosswalk and sidewalk pavers as well as trellises and benches.

It is the plan that also talked about the need for the city to take physical steps whether that was widening sidewalks on Yosemite Avenue to make al fresco dining possible or upgrading rear entrances to make them appealing to access restaurants and stores from well-lit municipal parking lots.

After Main Street is revamped and the city continues with what programs that universally make sense, they then need to sit down and decide on a way to further the 2020 Vision and to do so in a broader area.

This is not a question of staff blocking progress although that is clearly what has happened.

It is a question of leadership that is lacking at the highest level in Manteca on the City Council.


 This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at