PUB­LIC WORKS CHAL­LENGE

Staff strug­gling with Man­teca’s work­load

Ripon Bulletin - - Front Page - By DEN­NIS WY­ATT

‘Cross­walk not work­ing, use other cross­walk’

A boy of per­haps 8 years was pound­ing the but­ton to ac­ti­vate the cross­walk flash­ers on Wood­ward Av­enue at Welling­ton Av­enue to no avail on Satur­day morn­ing.

His fa­ther came up be­hind him and told his son they weren’t work­ing point­ing to a sign reading “cross­walk not work­ing, use other cross­walk” some­one had wrapped around the pole with duct tape.

The other cross­walk was a ways to the west at the en­trance to Wood­ward Park where Queens­land Av­enue in­ter­sects with Wood­ward at the traf­fic sig­nals.

The fa­ther and his son opted to wait un­til there was a long gap in the traf­fic whizzing by on the five­lane wide stretch of as­phalt be­fore set­ting out to cross Wood­ward Av­enue.

It’s been 14 months since the pedes­trian warn­ing lights stopped func­tion­ing and eight months since the coun­cil agreed with a staff as­sess­ment they should be re­placed with much more vis­i­ble over­head warn­ing lights such as those at Wood­ward Av­enue at Buena Vista Drive.

While nearby res­i­dents have ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with the city’s seem­ingly lack of progress, the is­sue has noth­ing to do with staff dog­ging it. Man­teca jug­gling num­ber

of pub­lic works projects The pub­lic works depart­ment is op­er­at­ing with staffing lev­els in some ar­eas such as street main­te­nance that are roughly half of what they were in 2008. In the case of the de­sign of the over­head pedes­trian warn­ing lights and a sim­i­lar one the coun­cil di­rected to go in on Pills­bury Road to the east on Wood­ward Av­enue, the city is short-handed en­gi­neers, which is back­ing up projects.

It comes at a time when the city has a num­ber of ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture un­der­tak­ing such as the food waste to fuel pro­ject, sewer line re­hab projects, two new wells that need to be built, two in­ter­change projects mov­ing for­ward and a slew of street-re­lated up­grades from pave­ment sur­faces to traf­fic sig­nal mod­ern­iza­tion. And it comes as Man­teca is ex­pand­ing by 700 plus homes a year while com­mer­cial and busi­ness park projects are pick­ing up steam. Un­der state law, the city has set times that they must meet pro­cess­ing build­ing per­mits fur­ther putting time con­straints on city staff.

Top­ping that off is the surge in pri­vate sec­tor ex­pan­sion that has made en­gi­neers a hot com­mod­ity mak­ing fill­ing va­cant po­si­tions a chal­lenge.

“It’s a high pri­or­ity for us,” Pub­lic Works Direc­tor Mark Houghton said ear­lier this month of the cross­walk safety im­prove­ments.

The prob­lem is there are other high pri­or­ity or even more press­ing projects in line ahead of the cross­walk warn­ing systems. They need to move for­ward due to out­side fund­ing such as grants tied to com­ple­tion dates or crit­i­cal projects tied to the com­ple­tion of needed work.

The cross­walk projects — ex­pected to cost up­wards of $750,000 — are plugged into pub­lic works time­lines to move for­ward to con­struc­tion some­time be­tween April and De­cem­ber of this year.

For other cross­walk safety projects such as the tra­di­tional sign-mounted flash­ers at the cross­walk at Pagola Av­enue where stu­dents cross busy Wood­ward Av­enue to go to and from Ver­i­tas School, the pro­ject was able to move for­ward and be com­pleted over a six-week pe­riod once the coun­cil gave the OK. That’s be­cause it did not re­quire ex­ten­sive en­gi­neer­ing work and the ac­tual im­prove­ments could be done by city staff and not go through the bid­ding process. It also helped that the flash­ers could be pow­ered by so­lar pan­els that elim­i­nated the need for a hook up to elec­tric­ity al­low­ing the city to avoid need­ing a PG&E con­nec­tion. PG&E has a con­sid­er­able back­log of new con­struc­tion re­lated work as well.

The de­ci­sion to go with the over­head flash­ers at the Welling­ton Av­enue cross­walk rather than re­pair the flash­ers imbed­ded in the pave­ment that were in­stalled in 2007 had to do with two fac­tors: The high cost of the re­pair and the rel­a­tive ef­fec­tive­ness of the imbed­ded flash­ers.

Staff be­lieved the sus­pended over­head flash­ers such as at Buena Vista Drive have a higher vis­i­bil­ity.

The stretch of Wood­ward be­tween Main Street and Van Ryn Av­enue has ex­pe­ri­enced one pedes­trian fa­tal­ity in the past three years. There have been nu­mer­ous solo ac­ci­dents where trees or light poles are struck prompt­ing many to be con­cerned about how much at­ten­tion driv­ers are pay­ing as they nav­i­gate the wide road.

A paid con­sul­tant out of Loomis in Placer County ar­gued over­head flash­ers weren’t war­ranted at Buena Vista that the coun­cil went ahead and had in­stalled any­way. The con­sul­tant said he ob­served the pedes­trian count and at the time it wasn’t high enough. He added most of the pedes­tri­ans he saw were able bod­ied enough that they could pick up the pace to avoid be­ing hit if ve­hi­cles bar­rel down Wood­ward at un­safe speeds.

The City Coun­cil dur­ing bud­get ses­sions in re­cent years has stressed the need to re­store staffing in the pub­lic works at pre­re­ces­sion lev­els.

DEN­NIS WY­ATT/The Bul­letin

LEFT PHOTO: A sign posted at the Welling­ton Av­enue cross­walk ad­vises pedes­tri­ans to use the cross­walk at Queens­land Av­enue. RIGHT PHOTO: A woman crosses Wood­ward Av­enue in a cross­walk where warn­ing flash­ers haven’t worked since Novem­ber 2016.

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