Busy intersection? Don’t get hopes up for new traffic light

February 23, 2014 

What can you do if your neighborhood street is full of speedy drivers?

Debra Bush of Modesto wrote to ask about that, along with a related question about a busy intersection.

Her first question is this: “There is a left-turn lane for Edgebrook Drive off of El Vista Avenue (Oakdale Road). This can become very backed up at times, and people are constantly taking chances going across oncoming traffic to get onto Edgebrook. Why hasn’t there been a light installed at this intersection?

In addition, she said, that part of Edgebrook “is often a speedway, with people not stopping at stop signs and reaching speeds well over the limit. If Edgebrook had speed bumps or was a dead end, it would solve many problems. People would use other streets to reach Riverside Drive and surrounding areas. How can residents along Edgebrook Drive get changes made?”

Jeff Barnes, Modesto’s traffic engineer, has fielded many of our questions lately. He did a thorough job on these.

First of all, he pointed out, Modesto has more than 4,000 intersections, with traffic signals at fewer than 200 of them, or about 5 percent. In addition, there are roundabouts at 16 intersections and all-way stops at fewer than 100 more. So the odds of getting a stoplight aren’t particularly good.

Forget the odds; there’s also the price tag: “The cost to construct a new traffic signal is $250,000 and more, depending on the location,” Barnes said. “Once the traffic signal is constructed, there is the ongoing maintenance expense.”

The city’s traffic engineering division does monitor traffic volume and safety “to help determine where motorists and pedestrians need the extra help a traffic signal can provide,” he said. “Our staff monitors more than 70 intersections each year to help Modesto decide when it is reasonable for the community to make the large investment for a new traffic signal. As an example, the El Vista Avenue and Edgebrook Drive intersection ranks 15th on our most recent monitoring list.”

That’s 15 out of 91, he said, but it really doesn’t mean anything in terms of priority. It just means it’s not high enough for action, and “it could go higher or lower, or be dropped entirely” on a future list.

So Debra may not get that traffic light anytime soon. But the good news, he added, is that there were only two reported collisions at the intersection in 2010, and one each in 2011 and 2012. Last year’s figures have not yet been tallied.

As to Debra’s second question, a solution may be more immediately doable, although it, too, comes with a price tag – this one not paid by taxpayers.

Modesto’s City Council adopted a “speed hump policy,” Barnes said, that is available on the city’s website (www.modestogov.com). If you can’t find it, don’t despair. I couldn’t either. Barnes said to choose, in this order: Departments, Community and Economic Development, Documents, Traffic Engineering and finally Modesto Speed Hump Policy (View). Whew! That’s almost as bad as navigating the Standiford/Highway 99 overpass during the Christmas season!

Anyway, the policy explains what you have to do if you’d like to have speed humps or speed bumps (there is a difference) installed on your streets. Not only will you have to get a large percentage of your neighbors to agree to having the city put them in, but you’ll also have to pay for them. The policy says that in 1995, it cost about $3,200 for construction, striping and signs. Yes, 1995. It’s probably gone up a tad since then. Don’t know why the city couldn’t update that information when it updated the policy in 2009, but that’s what it says.

There are other ways to slow traffic on your street, Barnes advised. “The other method that has been effective in reducing speeding on residential streets has been Neighborhood Watch meetings, with the Modesto Police Department’s community service officers encouraging residents to slow down and obey the speed limits,” he said.

If you have any questions about speed humps or any kind of traffic light bumps in Modesto, he added, you are welcome to contact the traffic engineering office at (209) 577-5468 or (209) 571-5116.

Think maybe he’s getting tired of hearing from me? Go ahead and give him a call.

And don’t forget to tell me what you’ve been wondering about lately.

Send questions to Sue Nowicki at snowicki@modbee.com, fax to (209) 578-2207 or mail to P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352-5256.

Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service