It’s time for the Manteca City Council to hit the pause button again.
A few months ago they had the fortitude to call a timeout when it came to the politically fraught 100 block of North Main Street.
Removing the much maligned bulb outs and redoing the block relatively quickly — seemingly as popular with Manteca residents as Donald Trump would be as a keynote speaker for a gathering of alumni of the Obama Administration — would have been a great way to score points with voters. The solution, however, was based on narrow premises the city staff had been given and carried a price tag approaching seven figures.
The Council realized short-term warm fuzzies from those who blow up social media or bend their ears in person wasn’t worth the price of not coming up with a more global solution. They clearly saw that the Main Street corridor has to be four lanes sooner than later. So instead of dumping more money in the ground to score quick political points and then having to come back 10 or so years later and rip those improvements out and spend even more money to switch to four lanes, they instructed staff to rework the solution and look at making the stretch of Main Street from Alameda to Yosemite four lanes.
There is another slow moving, political torturous project that is moving forward finally that should get the same long view solution as the 100 block of North Main Street.
The project is the rehab of downtown alleys and parking lots.
It’s been 57 years and counting since the last time any of the alleys and parking lots in question had serious maintenance issues addressed. The condition of the alleys and parking lots have been a major issue since at least 1998 when the citizens committee that cobbled together the Vision 2020 report described them as being in deplorable condition. They noted the city needed to make them more attractive to encourage the private sector to upgrade rear entrances to the point they could have patios and more to lure customers.
Given that the Council is looking long range for a downtown that’s vibrant economically as well as culturally and at the same time is adult enough to look at whether how the city does business will be sustainable financially 20 or 40 years from now, they should consider a timeout for the alley and parking lot project.
That is especially true in light of staff research regarding using interlocking concrete pavers in lieu of asphalt to address deteriorating streets in the Springtime Estates and Mayors Park neighborhoods.
Although cheaper upfront, asphalt over the expected life of a street costs taxpayers $31 more per square yard when all expenses such as maintenance are fractured into the equation.
The City of Ripon recognized this when they required developers in the run-up to the Great Recession to use pavers instead of asphalt for neighborhood streets. That’s because elected officials understood they likely wouldn’t have the kind of money needed 40 years down the road to maintain asphalt.
Stanislaus County employed pavers on a frontage road along Interstate 5 in Wesley that has substantial truck traffic. It is a nearby example of how pavers done right can support heavy traffic such as downtown delivery trucks.
We already know Manteca for the past 57 years lacked adequate funding to maintain the alleys and parking lots.
We also know how one dig for a utility project can severely compromise an alley or street. A prime example is in the downtown alley behind the 200 block of West Yosemite Avenue between Maple Avenue and Sycamore Avenue. Sections of the alley where Comcast contractors dug up to install broadband services — another piece to the puzzle needed to make downtown more viable — have been patched over. Not only is it unsightly but some of the patchwork has a drop approaching an inch or more on the driving surface.
Pavers allow you to remove sections and replace just that section without a drop in the street level or looking as if it had been patched. At the same time potholes are significantly less likely to happen and are more repairable in terms of being seamless when they do occur.
By using colored bricks as Ripon has done in their downtown, you can eliminate the need to keep repainting stall lines in parking lots. Not that any of the alleys and parking lots the city is currently looking at rehabbing have them, but the same is true with crosswalks.
Pavers would also tie in effectively with what is already in place in downtown whether they are crosswalk or sidewalk pavers. They also complement the end-of-the-19th-century street light poles, traffic signals, and other streets and furnishings.
In other words you don’t need to hire a design consultant to determine what colors and styles of pavers would be the best for downtown.
Based on city staff research while pavers on the long-run balance sheet cost 35 percent less they are about twice as expensive upfront. Obviously the bottom line is significantly less money when all is said and done. Any queasiness about a larger outlay upfront should be overcome by the ancillary benefits that pavers will have in moving downtown Manteca toward the appealing and bustling 21st century town center that virtually everyone says they want to see.
It’s not too late for the Council to minimize future expenses and maximize positive impacts the proposed alley and parking lot work will have on downtown.