Sitting in traffic on North Main Street on a weekday afternoon or a late Saturday morning as it struggles to snake through downtown makes you realize the latest solution for congestion woes is woefully inadequate.
Give the Manteca City Council credit for finally saying enough is enough with constricted lane movements through the 100 block of North Main Street by directing staff to take steps to remove the bulb-outs. Give the municipal staff an incomplete for failing to include a fifth option to improve the situation.
The council earlier this month opted for a game plan that essentially is another stop-gap measure. That plan removes the bulb-outs and all on-street parking as well as narrows and relocates the median to accommodate two southbound travel lanes, a north bound travel lane and turn pockets.
There is a better solution that is also more comprehensive that the council was not offered.
It will improve traffic flow not just on Main Street but Yosemite Avenue and Center Street as well while at the same time building in cushion for a growing city that will continue to rely on the Main Street corridor as homes are added in all four directions from the city’s core.
The best solution is to make Main Street four lanes from the 120 Bypass to Lathrop Road.
You do this by eliminating all parking on North Main from Yosemite to Alameda. There is off-street parking for virtually every business between Center Street and Alameda Street. During the weekday very little of the on-street parking is used due to traffic congestion on Main Street. The only time parking is used to a large degree is when there are events at the FESM Hall. It is not unreasonable to expect people using the halls to find parking spaces on the street a block or so away during events.
The street medians in the 100 block of North Main would be removed. In their place — as well as in the middle of the rest of Main Street from Center north to a point at the southern edge of the shopping center anchored by Club Cal Fit would be a thin raised concrete median with perhaps a raised decorative wrought iron fence. This would allow two travel lanes in each direction and eliminate mid-block turns into and out of parking lot driveways as well as alleys to maximize traffic flow and safety.
Traffic signals sequences on Main at North, Center, and Yosemite would need to be changed. Northbound traffic on Main would have a green by itself to allow left runs from the inside lane as well as to allow both lanes to go thru the intersection. Southbound Main would be a separate green movement allowing the inside lane to go straight or turn left as well during the duration of the greenlight for the southbound outside lane.
Yosemite Avenue could remain the same with left turn lanes and through movements having separate green lights or have green light movements to reflect having all turn/travel movements in one direction going throughout a green light cycle.
Such changes would not be needed at the Alameda and Main signals as the road widens sufficiently at that point to accommodate left turn pockets and two lanes of thru traffic in each direction.
Left turns from southbound Main to Sutter Street would be barred as would left turns from Sutter to southbound Main. The narrow median concrete rail would be extended across the intersection and one of the two crosswalks eliminated.
Given the city is getting $1 million plus via federal grant to update hardware/software controlling traffic signals to optimize flows to reduce congestion and air pollution caused by idling traffic, this is an ideal time to make such changes.
It would also require upgrading alleys on both sides of the 200, 300, 400, and 500 blocks of Main Street given they would be getting more use to access off-street parking for businesses along those blocks.
If bicycle lanes are a must, then narrow travel lanes to the legal minimize as was done on Louise Avenue. This also would help calm traffic speeds. And if by chance there isn’t enough space, shave a foot off the sidewalks on each side. Replace the sidewalks at that point as part of a streetscape upgrade project with planters or whatever will work given the fact large swaths of North Main between Alameda and Center can generously be called ugly duckling at best.
Going beyond the 100 block of North Main can be expensive. But here’s the beauty of the plan: It can be done now in the 100 block and then followed up later to reach Alameda. To make it work the only thing needed would be to eliminate on-street parking from perhaps the FESM Hall to Center Street to accommodate four lanes for new traffic signal movements.
Why it makes sense to do this now is because it is the ultimate reasonable solution plus Manteca at its current growth rate will have at least 92,000 residents by 2030 compared to 75,000 today. The only other way to get more traffic volume on Main Street is to tear out businesses on one side or the other and that isn’t going to happen.
And by doing the work now, it provides a base for all other needs that will have to eventually be addressed in the 200, 300, 400, and 500 blocks of Main Street as well as downtown.
Of, if the council prefers, they can stick with their partial solution made earlier this month and have a future council revisit the issue once again when traffic congestion becomes unbearable.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.