Main Street is the most dangerous and congested arterial in Manteca.
And as Manteca grows into the proposed preferred general plan land use update designed to support a population of 206,368 residents it will become an even more critical major roadway.
The congestion is painfully obvious to anyone who lives in Manteca as well as the small army of traffic consultants the city has hired over the years.
It has the worst level of service — planning jargon for the time it takes vehicles to clear traffic signals — in Manteca. And all of that is in the constricted portion of Man Street as it passes through downtown.
By far the deadliest place to be a pedestrian crossing the street in Manteca is also on Main Street. It is the stretch between Alameda Street and Louise Avenue where the wide expanse and unrestricted continuous center turn lane turns it in it a speedway. The body count in recent years has included kids, adults, and a bicyclist.
If you look at the preferred general plan land use map you will see — at least for the next 30 or 40 years — all of the additional residential development will take place north of Lathrop Road south of Atherton Drive along the Union Road and Main Street corridors.
Airport Way north of the 120 Bypass is primarily being sacrificed as a major truck route to accommodate present and future distribution centers.
There is no new north-south corridor that will serve 110,000 more people that goes the length of the city or ties into the 120 Bypass. And there is only one that ties into both the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 — the Main Street corridor.
Admittedly the last two or so years have been unsettled at City Hall making it difficult for elected leaders to keep their eyes on the ball when it comes to numerous smart proposals they embraced that worked their way up from the ranks and mid-management for their approval.
This is an important observation. That’s because whether you agree with it or not, the majority of the City Council in recent years have viewed many department heads in place for years as being less than go getters, not open to new ideas, or bidding their time until retirement.
They probably indeed have a gung ho and smart permanent management team that is still three-eighths empty.
But they are forgetting the rock solid plans lower level workers have come up with in recent years without having to hire a consultant to suggest the city consider them. That runs the gamut from the food waste to fuel endeavor and the diverging diamond interchange for Union Road on the 120 Bypass.
City staff that existed prior to the purge and is still onboard came up with three ideas the councils at the time embraced as brilliant for addressing long-term traffic flow and safety issues without having to hire traffic consultants such as the one that determined Chick-fil-A would not disrupt traffic flow.
The most high profile solution to the city’s worst traffic flow issue was one that Mayor Ben Cantu just over a year ago heaped praise upon for out-of-the-box thinking that took a holistic approach and saved money at the same time.
It is the same paver project aimed at converting Main Street from Yosemite Avenue to Alameda Street to four lanes that last month Cantu was eager to pounce on a staff’s suggestion to kill so the city could hire a consultant to tell them for the sixth time that if you keep Main Street two lanes through downtown people will fall in love with the place and the city will be shoveling in truckloads of tax revenue every month.
The Main Street project has always been framed as a traffic flow issue by responsible council members. It never was a pavement condition issue although once you rip out the bulbouts and median in the 100 block of North Main Street it will become one.
In order to get four lanes through there using asphalt due to the need to edge pavement with gutters, additional right-of-way is needed. That means narrower sidewalks and relocating street lights and traffic signals.
Using pavers that require a concrete base became less expensive than asphalt for another reason as well. It wouldn’t require the removal of the original Highway 99 concrete roadway buried beneath almost 90 years of asphalt.
The ability to have the pavers near the curb packed with sand would create a pervious surface allow the placement of French drains below to address localized flooding problems,
And — as Cantu correctly pointed out at the time — the decorative street pavers would beautify the downtown area as well as help define it better to people driving Main Street.
The latest wave of department heads believing the issue regarding Main Street is saving downtown which is doing OK and is far from needing life support instead of a critical traffic flow concern are working hard to devise reasons to convince the council in June to ditch the repeated promises made to Manteca residents who have to suffer with the consequences of traffic congestion on Main Street and to keep it two lanes.
One of the disingenuous arguments is the narrower lanes required — that meet the state minimum for traffic lanes — are a horrible and hideous thing and will impede traffic flow.
Funny, just five years ago residents were arguing that about the Louise Avenue redo that also included Class II bike lanes as proposed through downtown. The city told them their concerns were essentially baseless.
Guess what — the city was right. It has not impeded traffic, there has not been an uptick in traffic, and traffic is now moving closer to the speed limit.
But somehow five years later the narrower lanes are bad because it does not fit what staff wants for North Main Street through downtown as opposed to what residents have been promised and want.
And it’s all because staff believes two lanes through downtown will transform it into Pleasanton. It hasn’t happened for the past 16 years but apparently because staff thinks it will it is worth having idling cars backed up polluting the air trying to pass through downtown on Main Street.
Rank-and-file noticed the carnage on North Main, came up with a solution, and found a non-local funding source.
The effort involves, among other things, creating pedestrian islands in the middle of North Main Street to break up the continuous center turn lane. That allows pedestrians to cross one section of the busy arterial one section at a time.
The third departure from the usual involves minimizing the traffic congestion impacts of the 1,301 homes in Griffin Park breaking ground to the west of South Main south of Woodward Avenue.
For the first time ever the developer stepped up to widen the entire street and install curb and gutter on the opposite side of their project until the city waiting for another developer to come along.
Staff then recommended placing several roundabouts on the widen segment of South Main. Given the roundabouts on a four-lane road that’s going in from the start it will allow efficient traffic flow, safer pedestrian crossings, and reduce long-term costs for the city for traffic signal maintenance.
“Virgin eyes,” as the mayor calls the new faces filling department head seats, can be a good thing. But what is even better is consistency and follow through on solid projects that have already been developed.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org