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Voodoo traffic consultants & the real world
Dennis Wyatt

Say you live in April Way in Springtime Estates, Aksland Drive was extended to Northgate Drive, and your son drove each day to East Union High.

Would he drive a quarter mile longer to get to school by taking a longer route via Louise Avenue? Or what if you bought a home in the proposed D.R. Horton neighborhood where the most profitable home builder in the land plans to shortchange Manteca schools and you needed to get to Target in Spreckels Park? Would you take an extra five minutes or so and intentionally deal with three traffic signals on the two busiest streets in Manteca or take a more direct route through Springtime Estates?

The answers are obvious to real folks like Manteca residents Frank Ott, Marion Elliott, Cybill Evans and others who reside in Springtime Estates.

The experts say they are wrong.

Build 158 homes and not one single resident would ever take the shortest route to reach Target. As for Springtime Estates that probably has dozens of youth living there who either attend East Union High or play organized sports at Northgate Park and Neil Hafley School, no more than 10 vehicle trips a day would take the shortest and quickest route between their home and those destinations.

Welcome to the world of voodoo traffic consultants where theory is everything and common sense is as archaic as a crank on a Tin Lizzie.

Give credit to the Manteca City Council for refusing to take a hit from the addictive smoke blown by consultants that’s rich in computer modeling and ignores that drivers are human and not algorithms. Their decision Tuesday not to make Aksland Drive a through street to connect with Northgate Drive at North Main Street will prevent adding to the endless strings of traffic messes created in Manteca over the years by experts who — like the great Wizard of Oz — were blindly followed even though the people hiring them had the right answers all along.

So why use traffic consultants? The California Environmental Quality Control Act put on steroids by lawsuits and court rulings require them.

Ever wonder why Manteca doesn’t have a Lowe’s home improvement store or why the proposed Save Mart store at Atherton Drive and South Main Street hasn’t broken ground yet? Three words: Redundant traffic studies.

Lowe’s had spent $450,000 on CEQA studies including traffic for a proposed home improvement center on Daniels Street east of Airport Way and were getting ready to break ground when an outside agency required an additional traffic study to address the specific impact of truck movements focusing on them impacting air quality if they idled for more than 10 minutes at the loading dock. Instead of simply banning delivery trucks from idling which would have been conmon sense, another study costing $60,000 was required not to justify requiring the trucks not idle but to simply determine the impacts of the air quality. Six months into the process of getting the additional study done, the Great Recession hit and Lowe’s bailed. Had the study that was redundant given there were already air quality studies that tell you how much a truck impacts air quality when it idles for 10 minutes not been required Lowe’s would have been almost done with the store and would have opened it.

When Atherton Drive was built a traffic study based on the general zoning that included retail was done before it could legally be built. Because the study was more than 10 years old and was not specific to a supermarket being built state law required the impacts to Atherton and Main and specifically to the intersection to be addressed.

Do you think the road improvements will be any different than what anyone with common sense using the original traffic study would require?

This is a reason why building costs so much in California and stupid things are done with streets.

The CEQA process in too many cases is government regulation gone wild. Pity the Rossi family that now has to pay for yet another traffic study because the council agreed with residents it would destroy their neighborhood tranquility to have Aksland Drive extended. What is triggering the new study? The traffic consultant already determined “zero” cars from the 158 new homes would have driven through Springtime Estates if Aksland Drive were extended.  Given North Main/Northgate was the only other access to the proposed neighborhood how would the traffic modeling change as there would be no more and no less vehicle trips? As for those 10 less vehicle trips that now won’t occur from Springtime Estates residents given Aksland is no longer going to connect to Northgate, why do we need CEQA clearance to reduce traffic which lessens the impact on the environment?

Project engineer Tony Marshall nailed it when he indicated it would make the project bullet proof from lawsuit challenges over traffic or failing to do all CEQA studies that are perceived to be required.

One rather astute Springtime Estates resident wondered how the original traffic study dealt with the impact of traffic apps such as Waze that direct people to shortcuts based on time traveled. They don’t. And if the legal-environmental-NIMBY complex were honest, even before apps traffic studies never took the real human driving behavior into consideration.

Most drivers, like water, take the path of least resistance.

Meanwhile those employed as voodoo traffic consultants are raking in the dough.