Manteca Police know that. City traffic planners know that. Responsible drivers know that.
It is why those who live along or near Woodward Avenue are a bit on edge on a daily basis about speed on Woodward Avenue.
And, in defense of the city, they have responded as the law allows. The speed limits are set according to California standards that meet court dictates for the use of radar. In doing so, that means roughly 15 percent of the traffic won’t be going at or below the posted speed. They could be going 1 mph over or 20 mph over.
Manteca Police — just like virtually every other law enforcement agency — have discovered that when they run radar checks in residential neighborhoods that most of the offenders live on or near the street in question.
Woodward Avenue is a different animal. It was first a rural road. Then it was envisioned as an arterial and developed as such between Atherton Drive and Main Street. Then the city, noting the overkill of having two major arterials within a quarter mile of each other — Atherton Avenue and Woodward Avenue — plus the fact 72 homeowners would lose large chunks of their front yards, backed off making Woodward an arterial. Instead they adopted plans to transform Woodward Avenue west of Main Street into a collector street.
Now toss in the 120 Bypass wildcard. Even without stopped traffic on eastbound 120, a small but fairly significant number of Bay Area commuters that live south of the Stanislaus River in Modesto and beyond in the afternoon will get off the freeway and head toward Woodward Avenue to reach Moffat Boulevard and then merge onto southbound Highway 99 at Austin Road.
There is s belief that once the city puts in the missing link of Atherton Drive between Union Road and Airport Way that this will take those drivers off Woodward Avenue especially between Airport Way and Union Road. But there’s one little problem with that theory. You can already exit Union Road and reach Atherton Drive to bypass the 120 Bypass. It is doubtful making it possible to reach Atherton Drive to do the same by exiting Airport Way will reduce those numbers.
Twice I drove Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue after exiting the 120 Bypass to travel to the Highway 99 southbound onramp at Austin Road. While it was just a casual test and was done on a late Tuesday morning, each time it was about a minute longer to go Woodward Avenue. That said, taking Atherton Drive seemed longer. The reason was simple. I hit two of the three traffic signals “wrong” each time. Instead of being stopped for more than 10 or 15 seconds at stop signs on Woodward, I was stopped for a minute or more at each traffic signal on Atherton. Again, Atherton was still quicker but because you are always moving on Woodward save for a periodic stop sign, it seems longer on Atherton.
The bigger problem on Woodward, quite frankly, are people that live south of the 120 Bypass that account for the lion’s share of the traffic. The missing link on Atherton won’t change their driving habits.
So the key is to come up with a solution that improves the situation the most on a day-to-day basis. The city has actually partially done that but the solution has yet to be implemented.
Roundabouts are planned at several locations along Woodward where new development is taking place. The “temporary” roundabout at Woodward and Oleander which doesn’t really function as such will be replaced with a real permanent roundabout once work starts on new homes north of the 120 Bypass.
What residents need to do that want slower traffic is simple: Embrace the city’s roundabout strategy and encourage city leaders to approve more.
Woodward at Union Road as well as Main Street make sense and are do-able since not all four corners are developed. So would Woodward at Pillsbury using designs such as the one the city approved to be built on Louise Avenue at Felipe Way in conjunction with the Trumark neighborhood east of Highway 99 where the roundabout is pushed more to the north due to the southern sides of the intersection already being developed.
The best example of a roundabout in a high speed situation is the one San Joaquin County installed on Eleventh Street heading into Tracy from Interstate 205. It slows traffic down, it keeps traffic flowing, it reduces air pollution from idling and makes it easier for pedestrians to cross.
Roundabouts — as placed in northeast Modesto — are even more effective when speeds are 45 mph or less and there are even larger volumes of traffic and significantly more pedestrians. They also have the added bonus of often being less expensive to install and are definitely less expensive to maintain in the long run than traffic signals.