Doctors Hospital of Manteca has a Manteca High problem.
It’s future — and well as its current security — is compromised by a street.
When the medical facility opened in 1962 as Manteca Hospital it is highly unlikely anyone thought of the day when Manteca would have 81,470 residents within 20 years of topping 120,000. Civic leaders were enthralled just to be able to have a hospital so people didn’t have to drive 30 to 40 minutes in life and death situations and being able to have major medical care within the community.
North Street splits the Doctors Hospital campus in two. On the north side is the hospital and to the south are its medical office buildings and the majority of its parking.
Today the only saving grace about taking your life into your own hands crossing North Street from your car to reach the hospital is if you get hit they can wheel a gurney out from the emergency room instead of calling an ambulance.
There has yet to be a catastrophic accident. However if you spend time watching the crosswalk you’d be amazed that no one has been seriously maimed or killed. North Street is getting more use with each passing year as a bypass of Yosemite Avenue to reach points west of Cottage Avenue. At the same time those frustrated during peak traffic hours trying to drive down the former two-lane country road called Cottage Avenue that passed collector street status 15 years ago and is now operating as a quasi-arterial with more fun to come when 490 homes are added at TruLiving Manteca are using North Street to reach Yosemite and Highway 99.
Basically the dance of the two-ton vehicles versus the 180-pound targets crossing North Street will become more insane as Manteca takes the express lane toward 120,000 residents.
The bigger issue for the community as a whole is not safety. It’s creating a situation that makes Doctors Hospital as viable as possible to serve the community as it grows.
It was also the same issue facing Manteca High when elected council members put aside initial municipal staff reservations and objections to turn over Garfield Avenue to Manteca Unified School District along the section where the campus borders both sides. That allowed the district to do two things: It can now put in motion wrought iron fencing plans that will prevent the homeless and others from being able to slip onto campus while eliminating vehicles cutting through as well. At the same time the district had been able to master plan the campus with the section of Garfield Avenue 100 percent under their control as part of an effort to make the 98-year-old campus viable for another century. The section would become a plaza with a new gym being able to hold 2,200 students — the new ultimate design for the campus — by essentially taking the structure to what is curb along Garfield today by removing the existing swimming pool.
Doctors Hospital may be years from a major expansion but by ceding the hospital to have 100 percent control of North Street where they bump up to both sides it would allow maximum flexibility. The city giving up control of the one block of North Street is something that needs to be done sooner than later so Doctors Hospital knows what footprint it can ultimately work with.
The beauty of moving toward abandoning the street now with the proviso underground infrastructure such as water and sewer lines can not ever have a building placed above them as was the case in Garfield Avenue is that the hospital could address traffic safety issues on North Street that is an issue for anywhere from 500 to 1,000 people a day.
Let’s be honest. The only way to really slow down drivers on North Street in front of the hospital is by physically narrowing the travel lanes with hard-core physical improvements and not painting bike lanes as well as tossing in speed humps with the possibility raised crosswalks to eliminate Americans with Disabilities Act issues at the same time could be used instead.
It would force traffic to slow and it would shorten the distance pedestrians need to cross the street.
One possibility is North Street from the east could be the main entrance to the hospital campus with the street and parking lot reconfigured to allow public access via an established internal travel route to the emergency room. All ambulances coming from Cottage already go on the north side of the hospital. Ambulances from the east would still be able to use Northwoods Avenue to North Street to Stafford Way. The big difference is you would not be able to enter the hospital parking lot from the east directly in an alignment with North as that would only encourage people to use the hospital parking lot as a short cut as a small but growing number of imbeciles do with gas stations and parking lots at congested intersections to make right turns to avoid waiting in line for a minute.
Having the best possible hospitals for Manteca is essential.
Making sure hospital staff, outpatients, visitors, and volunteers are as safe as possible is also essential.
It makes sense for elected officials to start looking at areas such as the hospital and North Street now that are already dicey with 81,470 residents to see what changes can be put in motion so that situations improve and not worsen as we close in on 120,000 residents.