J Street's future? First, make it safer

December 12, 2012 

TLB Downtown 1

TRACY BARBUTES / tbarbutes@modbee.com From left to right, Aaron Vickery, age 36, Valley Charter High School student, Christian Vickery, age 15, and Chris Murphy, age 51, all Modesto residents and volunteers, spray paint a brick design in front of Picasso's Deli & Art at 10th and J streets in Modesto, Calif., on November 3, 2012. Volunteers are working to beautify downtown and have moved planters, filled with trees and plants, partially into the intersection at 10th & J streets with plans to create more space for pedestrians in the area.

TRACY BARBUTES — Modesto Bee

The Modesto planning department says it will emphasize the future of 10th and J streets. Let's start by recognizing that traffic on J is a threat to life and a detriment to downtown revitalization. Too many speeders create near or actual accidents.

If we want to increase stores and shoppers, the first step is eliminating that route as the primary connector between McHenry at Five Points and Ninth Street or Highway 99.

The first investment must be stop signs at every corner, starting with The State Theatre, where pedestrians on the way to the show are often threatened. The next phase would secure funding to create wide, attractive sidewalks that reduce J Street to two lanes. Rushed drivers can shift over to I Street, with fewer pedestrians and wider lanes. When J Street is no longer a survival challenge, new sidewalks can support potted flowers, vendors, benches, and public art. Cafes can expand outdoor seating. The street could become a corridor of lights with artful neon and trees wrapped with rope lighting.

What will it take? Stop signs, now, to reduce speeding. A short strategy document that leads to general plan amendments and City Council leadership — and then funding can be sought.

BRUCE E. JONES

Modesto

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