Bee Investigator: Of Modesto parking places, stop signs and left turns

11/24/2013 6:37 PM

11/24/2013 9:57 PM

We are hitting the streets this week.

Ed Huffman, owner of Huffman’s Big & Tall in downtown Modesto, had an issue with parking.

“On the west side of 14th Street between L and Needham, there are seven businesses sharing the parking at the curb and the few spots along the rosebushes,” he said. “Three of the businesses are dental offices with two to four employees each, so the parking gets used up very quickly. The curb is posted with limited parking signs.

“With this many businesses clustered together, it would be nice to have the limited parking signs removed.”

Ed said he had contacted David Eshoo, a city engineer, a month ago and never heard back from him. I sent a quick query to Jeff Barnes, Modesto’s traffic engineer, to find out more. The last time I wrote about such signs, the city was in the process of overhauling its parking sign procedures. Back then, it wasn’t easy for a homeowner to get a time limit sign removed from the curb in front of his home.

This time, Barnes had Eshoo call Ed the next day. Eshoo promised that two time-limit signs would be gone within the next couple of weeks. Now that’s timely help.

Karen Sharits was not so lucky. The Modesto woman wrote to ask about a missing stop sign.

For many years, she said, the parking lot of the FoodMax/Office Depot stores had a stop sign at the exit on Evergreen Avenue near Orangeburg Avenue.

“The stop sign got ‘lost’ when the drainage pit to the side of the exit was re-dug last year,” she said. “The exit was repaved and the painted ‘STOP’ on the ground was removed at the same time. There have been many close calls at the exit, due to people pulling out onto Evergreen without stopping. It has become especially bad with the addition of Panda Express right there, and with more people using that parking lot as a throughway from the Prescott-Briggsmore traffic light to Evergreen-Orangeburg.

“Can you please check on this before someone gets hurt?”

Barnes fielded this question, as well.

Basically, he said that the stop sign at the corner of Evergreen as it dead-ends into Orangeburg is the city’s responsibility, and there is no problem with that one. The one missing from the parking lot, he said, is on a private driveway and is the responsibility of the owner.

He did quote the California Vehicle Code that says the driver of any vehicle moving from private property is supposed to yield to oncoming traffic, but then if everyone knew and followed the rules of the road, we wouldn’t have traffic problems in general, would we? He also mentioned that Google didn’t show a stop sign there when it gathered its street view information years ago, but I’ve used that driveway myself and can confirm there once was one there.

I’m no traffic engineer, but I know that whole intersection can be problematic, even without the parking lot exit adding to the problem. I would think the city could ask the owner to install a stop sign there to help promote safety on its city streets, don’t you? Before someone gets hurt, as Karen said?

Finally, I had a question from Gail Bowman, who wanted to know if it’s legal to turn left on a red light from 17th Street onto G Street in downtown Modesto. Both are one-way streets, and the vehicle code says a left turn in that situation is OK. But, Gail said, she knows someone who was pulled over several years ago and warned against doing so, apparently because 17th on the other side of G is a two-way street.

So here’s the picture: You are driving on the one-way 17th Street and come to the light at G. You have three lanes: The left two lanes are left-turn only onto G Street, while the right lane goes straight. Directly across the street from you, 17th becomes a two-way street, with one lane in each direction. Can you turn left onto G from the left-turn lane on 17th, knowing that the person across the street could be turning right on the red light onto G Street?

“There are drivers who sit and wait for the light and are often blasted by horns of the cars behind them,” Gail said. “There are some like me who would like to turn left and head home, but would rather sit to be safe and not one day get a ticket and be sorry.”

In fact, she said, she often will turn a block early just to avoid the problem.

Sgt. Craig Breckenridge, the traffic unit supervisor of the Modesto Police Department, said it’s a great question, but Gail doesn’t have to avoid the intersection anymore.

According to him, drivers in either the left or the center lanes on 17th Street may make a left on the red light after stopping first. Of course, they must also yield to pedestrians or nearby traffic, which would include cars entering from the other side of 17th Street. He cited the California Vehicle Code, Section 21453, in his response.

So turn left with confidence, Gail! If you do get pulled over, just give the officer Sgt. Breckenridge’s name. I’m sure he’ll come to your defense.

How about you? What’s on your mind this week? Is it that Christmas is exactly one month away? Do you have a holiday-related question? Send it my way!

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