MODESTO — When I asked folks to send me the locations of the worst potholes in the area, I got a slew of responses some of them even about potholes! Lots of people wrote about other problems with streets and highways, and I will tackle many of them the problems, not the people in later columns.
Here's a start:
Peggy Batey lives in east Oakdale. She and her husband were returning home after dark a couple of years ago, getting ready to turn off Highway 120 onto Orange Blossom Road. But a pickup behind them had its bright lights on, and "my husband almost missed the turn because there is no streetlamp at that intersection. The alternative to missing the turn is to go over a 20-foot embankment."
After that close call, Peggy contacted the California Department of Transportation, mentioning the danger and pointing out that "all of the other intersections off of Highway 120 have streetlights" to mark them.
She received a letter dated May 3, 2011, from Duper Tong, the Caltrans District 10 chief of the traffic safety branch. Tong wrote that after an investigation, Caltrans decided to install lighting at the intersection to "improve visibility for motorists in dark or inclement weather conditions." Caltrans promised to move the street name sign farther west "to provide advance warning of the intersection and left turn pocket."
Tong concluded by thanking Peggy for "bringing your concerns regarding the safety of our state highways" to Caltrans' attention.
But in January 2012, when Peggy called Tong to find out when the improvements would be made, she was told there was no money in the budget, so the project wouldn't happen.
I contacted Tong in late February and received a call back from Steve Gonzalez, the public information officer for Caltrans' District 10. He said the $185,000 project will be done this summer.
"That's great news!" Peggy said. "I'm still a little skeptical about their promises, but I really hope it gets done because I still dread making that turn in the dark."
Ceres road query
Eduardo Morales of Ceres wants to know why the pavement on Morgan Road is so rough south of the Hatch Road overpass. Even when the potholes are filled, he said, the patches often are above the level of the pavement, making for a bumpy ride.
In a related question, he noted the long wait for southbound drivers on Morgan at the Whitmore Avenue stoplight, especially about 5 p.m. It can take four or five stoplight cycles to get through. Part of the problem is that Morgan has just one lane there, so cars waiting to turn left at Whitmore have to yield to northbound traffic, blocking cars behind them. It's especially bad if big rigs are trying to turn left.
The first part of his question brings up a problem with wandering boundary lines in our county. Toby Wells, city engineer and deputy city manager of Ceres, said: "From Hatch Road to the center line of Nelson Way just north of Coca-Cola, Morgan Road is within the jurisdiction of Stanislaus County. South of Nelson Way, the west side of Morgan Road is the city of Modesto, and the east side of Morgan is still county in front of the county corporation yard. At the end of the county corporation yard begins the city of Ceres jurisdiction for the east side of Morgan; the city of Modesto is responsible for the west side (south) to Whitmore."
So in less than a mile, you have three government bodies responsible for part of a road. The county recently filled in the larger potholes on its section, but the city of Modesto has a number of smaller potholes that are deep and hard to miss.
I called Jim Burch, who is in charge of streets and potholes for Modesto. He sent a pothole crew out Friday to fill them.
"A lot of times, we just don't know where the potholes are unless someone calls," he said.
As for the stoplight and southbound traffic, Wells said that three corners of the intersection are in the city of Ceres, while the northwest corner is in Modesto. A farmer's field is there, usually planted in corn in the summer and winter wheat in the colder months.
The problem of the Morgan southbound traffic backup will be fixed, Wells said, but not until 2015. He said Ceres has been awarded a federal grant to obtain the right of way to widen the road, which will give southbound drivers a left-turn lane and signal, but the funds "are not available until fiscal year 2014-15. It is expected that construction would occur in summer of 2015."
In the meantime, he said, the traffic problem will remain. He said his department has looked at the stoplights there and determined it isn't possible to change them further they were adjusted in the summer without adversely affecting the traffic on Whitmore, a major traffic artery.
"We have the solution," he said. "It's just a couple of years away."
I made a suggestion: How about turning the northbound Morgan light red a couple of seconds earlier after all, those drivers have a longer light because of the left-turn lane so the southbound traffic can have a couple of extra seconds to move through without having to yield to the northbound cars?
Can't do it, Wells said, and can't explain why to someone who doesn't understand the complexities of traffic engineering.
In other words, when they come out with a "Stoplights for Dummies" book, I need one.
NEXT WEEK: Garage sale rules.
Send questions to Sue Nowicki at firstname.lastname@example.org, fax to (209) 578-2207 or mail to P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352-5256.