Placing the two words “traffic consultants” in front of someone’s name and paying them $10,000 in Manteca tax dollars doesn’t make them sages.
Nor does it guarantee that they will come anywhere close into recommending the right solution for Manteca.
It is why the City Council tonight will be treading on thin ice if they give into yet another siren song of a traffic consultant to ignore some rather harsh day-to-day truths about Manteca traffic that they as elected officials who live, work, and play in the community should understand.
Traffic consultants use a one-size-fits-all-cities approach. They have their computer traffic models they plug average daily traffic flows into. If they observe any current traffic flows they do so for a few hours on one day and not 24-7 for a month to fully understand local nuances and quirks.
And they rely way too much on “standard criteria” developed over the years.
Exhibit one is the Chick-fil-A fiasco. Despite concerns voiced by people they treated as if they were local yokels — the Manteca Planning Commission — traffic consultants said the Chick-fil-A would be no different than any other fast food joint. As such they assured the city it would not impede traffic flows on Yosemite Avenue.
After all, they plugged into their model the square footage of the restaurant. Their program brought up a customer trip generation numbers based on the average of similar sized stores and — voila! — they blessed the Chick-fil-A project as being non-invasive.
Speaking as experts they got staff to go along as they pooh-poohed planning commission member concerns about what they had seen at other Chick-fil-A locations as well as In and Out Burgers right across the street.
This rest, as they say, is another fine mess handsomely paid traffic consultants got Manteca into.
The third or seventh traffic consultant study on solving the Main Street congestion as it passes through downtown depending upon how far back you want to gois being done in order to indulge the city staff’s fantasy of making Main Street “walkable. Somehow this will be different after a half century of consultants’ ineptness at jump starting downtown economic overhauls and traffic patterns that brought unintended consequences city residents have had to deal with long after the hired guns cash their checks.
Let’s examine just two of a multitude of issues their solutions for traffic movements through downtown in the past have created.
One touched on what would happen when Target and the retail area in Spreckels Park including Home Depot was being pursued.
The general public — i.e. the people who live and work here — questioned the wisdom at public meetings on Main Street through downtown not being four lanes when those projects first surfaced back when Manteca had less than 48,000 residents. That was in 1998 some 40,000 residents ago.
It was mentioned by the public it would just encourage people from north Manteca to come up with a work around solution which ended up being the dumping of more traffic on the narrow two-lane Cottage Avenue corridor.
Cottage Avenue was built as a short country road that for years ended in a T-intersection with a stop sign near the factory gates of Spreckels Sugar along Yosemite Avenue.
It was never designed as a collector street let alone an arterial.
But it has become a quasi-arterial that serves as the fourth north-south travel corridor. It starts as Cottage Avenue at Lathrop Road, turns into Spreckels Avenue when it crosses Yosemite Avenue, then into Industrial Park Drive when it crosses Moffat Boulevard, and then finally Mission Ridge Drive when it crosses Main Street.
A traffic consultant back then assured that would not happen. All of that traffic along Cottage Avenue is apparently just a figment of one’s imagination.
Then there was the much touted “downtown bypass” another traffic consultant came up while analyzing the impacts of the missing link of the de facto Cottage Avenue arterial extended by Spreckels Avenue that T-intersected for years at Moffat Boulevard
This is back when Manteca had 55,000 residents. It was also the “solution” that saw the Union Pacific putting in the crossing for it complete with signals almost five years ahead of the city building the actual roadway. It was the butt of political jokes prompting Manteca residents to suggest the city ask Crystal Milk to place messages on milk cartoons to ask the public “if they have seen this missing road.”
The point is whatever “new solution” yet another traffic consultant will interject into the last minute ditch effort by staff to torpedo the Main Street corridor traffic congestion solution that it has taken city leaders more than five years to get to the point to go to bid, likely won’t materialize until 2030. That’s not being funny. That’s based on the city’s proven track record of ineptness of moving road projects forward despite every new wave of department heads and city management.
Need examples? Let’s start with the Industrial Park Drive extension, the McKinley interchange, widening Louise Avenue east of Main Street, widening the rail crossing on Louise Avenue east of Airport Way to four lanes, the Atherton Drive extension west of Union Road that went to the cusp of being put out to bid twice before the city pulled the hammer, the widening of Airport Way south of Yosemite Avenue, and so on.
Then there are road overhaul projects such as Yosemite Avenue and Main Street the city dragged out over the years, sidewalk repair work, street sign replacements, traffic signal coordination, neighborhood paving projects, and more that either are delivered five years plus after they were first promised or are still languishing a city hall. Meanwhile engineers and planners are distracted by new baubles such as widening sidewalks on North Main Street to encourage al fresco dining or making Main Street two lanes north of downtown while ripping out traffic signals and replacing them with roundabouts to make it more walkable.
Tonight there is a good chance our elected leaders will walk away from a holistic approach to resolve the city’s most persistently congested traffic corridor that has been a problem for as long as people have dreamed about making downtown Manteca over as if it were downtown Pleasanton that was languishing by being away from the epicenter of growth.
Downtown Manteca is still at the epicenter of growth that based on general plan updates will add 29,000 residents to the city over the next 20 years or so directly to the north and south without adding a north-south arterial.
What the greenhorns at city hall are pushing for is actually to reduce the number of legitimate north-south arterials from three to two by forever neutering Main Street from serving such a function.
They will do this with full knowledge of projections that rail traffic flowing though the eight at-grade rail crossings on the line that runs through the center of town and behind downtown will more than double including bringing passenger trains in 2023 that will stop downtown.
But, hey, all of the people who elected council members who actually live here and drive the streets day-in-and-day are country bumpkins compared to the entire senior management that has been in their positions for less than a year in Manteca as well as those wise oracles of traffic flow that gifted the city such traffic flow planning wonders as Chick-fil-A.
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