Not many people live in Mountain View, located nine miles south of Modesto between Turlock and Patterson. But a county proposal to upgrade the intersection there at West Main Avenue and Crows Landing Road has created tension between a few business owners and Stanislaus County officials.
The county wants to install more than $2.5 million in improvements, including a traffic signal, center dividers and turn lanes.
Phil Wagner, co-owner of Mountain View Feed & Seed Co., said the concrete dividers and other improvements will cut off access to his truck scales and feed store on the east side of Crows Landing.
In addition, most of the parking area will be eliminated for the Farmers Den diner, at the northeast corner, and the upgrades will make it hard for customers to reach the gas station across the street, Wagner and restaurant owner Jeff Green said.
For decades, they said, the current four-way stop with a blinking red light has made the rural crossroad safe for drivers and the 220 students who attend Mountain View Middle School, because everybody stops. They fear a traffic signal will increase the risk by letting vehicles with the green light pass through at 35 to 40 mph or greater speeds.
"We don't have many accidents," Wagner said. "We get a lot of truck traffic and, if they see a green light, they won't slow down."
Green said the diner, which has 13 employees, sits close to the intersection and can't afford to lose many customers. "We are already shorthanded with parking, and this would wipe it out," he said. "People are not going to cross a big, wide street to get to a restaurant."
County public works officials started discussing the project with local residents and merchants about a year ago. Wagner and Green noted that officials have altered the plans, in an effort to address concerns, by shortening the divider on Crows Landing and proposing parallel parking across the street from the diner.
But the plans shown to them two weeks ago are not going to work for their businesses, the owners said.
Public Works Director Matt Machado stressed this week that a traffic signal will improve safety. He said the county has wrapped up design work and in the next six months will negotiate with landowners to acquire slivers of property for right of way.
The project is scheduled for construction in 2014. The work will be funded from public facility fees and federal grants intended to reduce congestion and air pollution, the director said.
"There is too much congestion and a lot of turning movements at the intersection, and a four-way stop does not accommodate that," Machado said. "West Main is a major route and so is Crows Landing. As those corridors continue to grow in traffic, the intersections are the first to break down and that is where we put our attention."
Machado said his department is willing to keep working with the merchants to minimize harm to their businesses.
County Supervisor Vito Chiesa said the concrete medians are needed to separate the faster-moving traffic that will travel through the intersection.
"I think the traffic light is still a good idea," said Chiesa, who has talked with the business owners. "We want a southern east-west corridor for the county, and we have to improve that corridor. Trying to find a way that is workable for everyone is always the toughest part."
Wagner said if the county insists on a traffic light, moving the truck scales to neighboring property might be the only solution. Truck drivers come in from both directions on Crows Landing to weigh loads of silage so they know what to charge customers. Wagner's family also operates a feed mill and sells pet supplies at the site.
The Mountain View business has been in the family since 1954.
"It seems like everything being proposed is negatively impacting our businesses," Green said. "(With a small restaurant), if you lose 5 to 10 percent of your clientele, you are done."
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.