Take a drive down Moffat Boulevard.
You will catch what is hopefully a glimpse of Manteca’s future.
In the middle of Moffat at an existing high visibility crosswalk at Garfield Avenue and a similar crosswalk just added at Sherman Avenue you will see a plastic bollard-style sign reminding you to pay attention when students — or others for that matter — are in the crosswalk.
Signs warning of school zone crossing ahead have also been put in place.
In the coming weeks signs at the crosswalk that feature an arrow will be adorned with yellow flashers activated when someone is trying to cross the street will be installed.
And when the weather dries a stretch of curbing on the south side of Moffat Boulevard from a point west of Sherman to a point east of Garfield will be painted red.
By now you are probably wondering what the big deal is.
The big deal is common sense and entrusting city staff to come up with solutions to address the small but important quality of life issues in Manteca without hiring a consultant and putting a project out to bid may be emerging as the new standard at 1001 West Center Street.
A little background on why a few simple signs on Moffat, another crosswalk, and several gallons of red paint are a big thing.
For more than two years council members have been bringing up concerns off and on at council meetings about traffic and safety issues on Moffat by Manteca High right before and right after school.
Finally the council got tired of the standard “we’ll look into it but staff is buried” or ‘we need a full scale traffic study conducted by a consultant” answers. They made it clear they wanted something done ASAP before someone gets hurt and to clean up an obvious mess.
Staff came back with the answer. It was a “holistic” answer for all of Moffat that would address a number of obvious issues. But because it would entail creating three-way stops on Powers Avenue at Powers, Garfield, and Sherman avenues it would require a full-blown traffic study. And if the consultant determined the stops signs weren’t justified they could not be installed without exposing Manteca to increased liability in the event of an accident.
What was suggested made sense. But the problem was it would require an extensive study, going to bid and spending upwards of $160,000.
It was another example of taking a small legitimate request that originated from citizen complaints and turning it into a Sistine Chapel project that would take years, if not more, to execute. The council asked for a solution and a fairly quick one that wasn’t a budget buster. Instead they were served up a Lamborghini-style project with a budget to match and a time frame that would require six to eight months to execute.
This is where Acting City Manager Miranda Ludlow entered the equation. She got key people together at city hall including Acting Public Works Director Koosun Kim together to come up with an in-house solution that didn’t raise the specter of creating a liability for the city that should an accident happen as the result of whatever improvements were made didn’t expose taxpayers to millions of dollars in settlements.
Surprisingly the solution advanced was one that rank and file had suggested in the first place. It apparently got brushed aside due to the culture at city hall.
The solution crafted didn’t require a traffic study as the solutions were taken from traffic calling measures already adopted by the City Council. Adding stop signs triggers such a study as do other measures that are taken with lane width and such.
The municipal street crew — whose staffing is still not back to pre-2008 levels before the Great Recession trigger major budget cuts — was more than capable to do the job and squeeze it into their work schedule without severely impacting other pressing work needs.
And even if it did overload staff and the city had to dip into its reserves to pay overtime, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than spending $160,000 that would include $8,000 plus for a consultant and more than $50,000 in outside labor costs to execute.
The materials needed to address the basic concern were minimal.
This is not an amazing new approach for Manteca when it comes to address safety concerns on city stress.
Nearly 20 years ago when South Powers Avenue had turned into a high speed shortcut between Yosemite Avenue and Moffat Boulevard, citizens made numerous complaints.
Instead of hiring a traffic consultant, staff analyzed the situation and determined the need for stop signs at Marin Street and Powers Avenue were justified and met warrants. They also tossed in traffic calming strategies that included bulb outs in medians at three intersections and putting in a bike lane to create narrower travel lanes.
The project cost $30,000. It isn’t 100 percent effective as there are still jerks and hotheads behind the wheel but easily 80 to 90 percent of the drivers on that stretch of Powers drive much saner and safer today.
As for installing stop signs, Powers Avenue offered another lesson. During Councilwoman Debby Moorhead’s first term, she was approached by parents worried that their children were going to get struck crossing Powers at Hutchings Street at the entrance to the Curran Grove neighborhood going to and from Lincoln School. Moorhead went to the intersection at dismissal time and was aghast at what she saw. In the span of 10 minutes she saw at least five kids almost get hit after they were well into the crosswalk after looking both ways by cars driving down Powers Avenue.
When Moorhead brought it up at a meeting, staff replied that children could walk out of their way to the Powers Avenue crosswalk at Yosemite Avenue where there were traffic signals. She was also told it would require a traffic study determining certain warrants were met to put stop signs on Powers at Hutchings. Staff also was concerned stop signs would impede fire engines responding to emergencies from the Powers Avenue station. Moorhead was irked. She asked staff to meet her out there when school let out.
Again, within a period of several minutes staff saw several near misses. Voila! It was determined stop signs were warranted without writing a fat check to a consultant. The city staff didn’t have to go to bid as public works crews installed the stop signs. They even re-striped the bike lanes to narrow the travel lanes to effectively slow most drivers.
The stop signs have not impeded fire trucks.
They also helped slow traffic between Hutchings and Marin where a lot of kids and parents park on the east side of Powers to reach the city swimming pool as well as Manteca Little League fields.
You will see the occasional driver blow through the stop sign without even trying to slow down. But for the most part the stop signs work.
The work you see being done on Moffat is an encouraging sign that the bureaucratic culture of making a mountain out of a molehill may be going the way of leisure suits.
If that is what house cleaning — or whatever the intrigue these days at city hall when it comes to the King Henry VIII act now underway — is all about, then get the acting city manager a bigger broom.