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So how bad is traffic in Manteca? Ask those who live in Pleasanton
industrial drive traffic

Let’s discuss the supposed hell known as Manteca traffic.

How horrible is it to cross Manteca even when there is a train going through town?

It is a question you’re going to have to ask yourself balanced against how much you are willing to pony up to pay for the solutions.

Start with the assumption that congestion is unbearable on the main arterials — primarily Airport Way and Main Street — as they connect with the 120 Bypass.

How many light changes does it take you to reach the freeway or get off the freeway? No one likes to wait at a red light although you can’t tell that sometimes by the drivers who are still sitting and texting after lights turn green.

As for reaching a freeway off-ramp, the farthest any tract home in Manteca is from an interchange is three miles. And even after everything south of the 120 Bypass is built out as well as what is envisioned north of Lathrop Road is will still be three miles.

As for the major arterials being congested to the point it is unbearable, why is speeding such a big issue? You can’t speed if traffic is bumper to bumper as some contend.

Yes downtown can be a challenge to get through.

It is arguably the most congested area in Manteca in terms of trying to get through traffic lights and backed up traffic even when there are not trains blocking crossings.

The funny thing is it has been that way for decades. The city has identified the obviously solution — remove the two-lane tourniquet on Main Street between Alameda Street and Yosemite Avenue and putting in four lanes by eliminating on-street parking.

Of course instead of making the Main Street change happen there is an effort to have staff do a bunch of doodling to come up with a way to get through traffic off of Yosemite Avenue and onto Center Street to make downtown more pedestrian friendly.

In case no one hasn’t noticed, downtown is already by far the most pedestrian friendly commercial area in Manteca. If you don’t believe that get out of your car and walk across a street on a green light on North Main Street, East Yosemite Avenue near the freeway, West Yosemite Avenue by Union Road, or intersections on Lathrop Road. There are high odds of one of three things happening.

If you haven’t entered the crosswalk when you get the sign to walk, cars that have the red light and want to turn right won’t stop nor will they even look to see if there is anyone on the curb trying to cross the street.

Once in a crosswalk you have a good chance of experiencing two things. One is someone turning their car in front of you usually about 6 feet away. The other is some who can’t wait for two seconds to make a right turn that many times will come within 4 feet of you from behind.

But the bottom line about monkeying with the flow of east-west traffic through downtown has everything to do with looking at Manteca in a piecemeal basis instead of an entire puzzle pieced together.

How can we have leadership that espouses the need for the highest service level for traffic movements meaning traffic on main arterials experience minimal flow disruptions and also push for a plan that takes one of the city’s top three east-west corridors in terms of traffic volume and adds kinks that will slow traffic down and more than likely push it onto neighborhood streets all in a bid to make downtown more pedestrian friendly?

If you assume that someone pushing such a plan is whacked or in la-la land, guess again. It is actually a logical response to all of the non-stop Chicken Little clucking in regards to Manteca whether it is traffic, wanting to bring downtown back to life even though it is still very much alive, or that we are the poster child city for homeless problems, deteriorating streets, and being a cultural and recreation desert.

Given it is a popular game these days to compare Manteca to other cities in order to thoroughly trash downtown, dis recreational offerings, bemoan amenities, and even slam community ambiance, let’s compare more than just downtown Manteca to nearby communities.

And since we are taking about traffic, let’s look at Pleasanton, Tracy and Livermore.

Pleasanton has congestion that is off the charts compared to Manteca but they do have a nice downtown that is off the path commuters and traditional retail shoppers beat every day.

Livermore has street patterns that resemble a Vincent Van Gogh painting. They flow  over the terrain as opposed to Manteca’s more rigid community-wide grid pattern of major arterials a mile apart — except for Atherton Drive — that are more conducive to keeping traffic flowing. That said Livermore does have a nice downtown.

Tracy has most of its commercial strung along three corridors — Tracy Boulevard, Eleventh Street, and Grant Line with “the” area around Naglee Road and Grant Line. If you want to experience the Rorschach test of freeway interchanges take the Naglee exit in Tracy and try to reach a commercial destination such as Winco, Costco, Tracy Mall, or Best Buy. Now compare that to Orchard Valley, Spreckels Park, and the Stadium Retail Center. As for downtown Tracy — which is nowhere near the center of town given it is at the eastern edge of the city — it is indeed a pleasant place for pedestrians.

Do you think the people of Pleasanton, Tracy, and Livermore wouldn’t want what Manteca has for the most part in terms of freeway access and the layout of major arterials? No one in their right mind would want the railroad crossings. It is clear it is not a great situation but if we insist on a whole hog solution to make traffic flow the top priority it will cost at least $250 million plus to go under or over tracks at major arterials or $1.2 billion plus to create a railroad trench.

There is no way any of this work can be done without existing residents ponying up a truckload of money even if matching money of some amount is obtained. It will mean we will have to bond ourselves or form a city wide community facilities district. That means we may not be able to secure other amenities by basically going into debt because we spent everything to make sure we had optimum traffic flow.

It is why the council needs to push for a third alternative. If Union Pacific is going to eventually triple train traffic through the heart of Manteca to the point of a train passing through town on an average of every 24 minutes, the city needs to do a full-court press for double tracking by the railroad. It is something that also makes sense for Union Pacific from an operational standpoint. At the same time the city needs a bridge over the tracks at Airport Way and maybe one other grade separation. The tab the city would have to worry a bit would be closer to $50 million.

It won’t eliminate train noise just like planned major road work won’t end congestion at peak times such as during commute hours or weekend shopping at Costco.

But if you insist that is what is needed, drop city hall a line and let them know you are willing to pay whatever you have to pay in order so you won’t hear another train horn or have to wait more than one traffic signal cycle so you have more time to text and drive and can crank up your stereo as loud as you want without it being drowned out by a train every so often.