Bee Investigator: What’s up with intersection, road and Caltrans program?

08/03/2014 5:10 PM

08/03/2014 5:11 PM

Peter Gifford wants to know what improvements are being made at Roselle and Merle avenues in northeast Modesto.

“Please tell me that it’s going to be a roundabout,” he said. “Also, is the city going to finish the sidewalks along Merle? It’s kind of dangerous for bike riders and pedestrians, some of whom are schoolchildren.”

Sorry, Peter, no roundabout there.

Jeff Barnes, Modesto’s traffic engineer, said the intersection is getting curb ramps on all four corners, curbs, gutters and sidewalks on the northeast corner, raised median and landscaping on Roselle north of Merle and a traffic signal with pedestrian indications and push buttons that comply with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.

As for sidewalks, he said, they will be constructed depending “on when the adjacent properties develop or redevelop. There are sidewalks on both sides of Merle Avenue between Oakdale Road and Roselle Avenue because the city requires new development to provide those improvements. ... It will take time for all the ranch homes and properties to be subdivided and developed. This is the normal process.”

As I’ve reported in the past, individual homeowners or a block of residents can contact the city about putting in sidewalks and gutters on their own dime. The city doesn’t cover those costs, although city officials sometimes can help residents find a grant to pay for the work.

Moving on: Karen Klein-Lopez is a teacher at Hidahl Elementary in Ceres, which is on Redwood Road.

“One of the arteries to our school is Moffet Road,” she said. “Between Service Avenue and Redwood, (Moffet) is a rutty road that should win a (bad street) award, especially after it rains. This road is essentially a patchwork; some parts get fixed and the bad parts just get worse. Ceres school buses take this road, as well. Why isn’t this road getting the proper attention and repair it needs, instead of just Band-Aid patches?”

Ceres City Manager Toby Wells said Moffet is a county road at that point. “It’s in our general plan, but resurfacing would have to be part of a major development that is many years down the road,” he said.

Chris Brady, Stanislaus County’s deputy director for roads and bridges, had some better news.

“The county is very aware of the condition of the road and does have plans to place a surface treatment on it within the next year as part of our annual chip-seal program,” he said. “We have done some asphalt repairs out there as recently as (last) week. This segment of road is scheduled to receive the chip-seal application in the summer of 2015.”

He said that treatment isn’t as effective as tearing out a road and repaving it, but is a less expensive way to improve the surface for about five to seven years. “It gives it a rejuvenated driving surface,” he said. “It will not take out all the unevenness in the existing road, which is pretty old, but it will help eliminate the potholes from developing.”

It will be a big improvement over conditions out there at present.

Michael Cadra of Oakdale wanted to know more about the California Transportation Department’s “Adopt-a-Highway” program.

For example, he said, “close to my home is the section of Highway 120 just west of the Oakdale city limit. A local family has ‘adopted’ that section, but it has been a real mess until about a month ago. A group of men from River Oak Grace Community Church picked up the litter on the Caltrans right-of-way in front of the church and cut down all the weeds. A week or so later, there was a little bit of cleanup on the other side of the road with some Caltrans orange bags seen.”

Cadera wants to know what the duties are for those who adopt stretches of roadway. How often are people supposed to carry out those duties, and can another motivated group force the original group out if it’s not doing the job.

Rick Estrada, public information officer for Caltrans, said the agency’s Adopt-a-Highway program “is a volunteer-based community service program open to individuals, businesses, groups and organizations.” Interested participants fill out an application and later attend a safety orientation meeting and pick up their safety gear. Then a signpost with their name on it will be placed next to their section of road. There is no charge to join the program.”

I would hope not!

Most Adopt-A-Highway locations, generally two-mile stretches, are supposed to be cleaned six times each year, and permits are issued for five years. No one under the age of 16 can help with the cleanup efforts.

“If groups are not keeping up with commitment, warning letters are sent,” Estrada said. “If the situation persists, they will be terminated from the program.” Then, if there are no groups on the waiting list for that location, other groups can seek a permit.

For more information, check out Caltrans’ Web site at http://adopt-a-highway.dot.ca.gov.

Finally, last week’s column on oleander bushes in the middle of the highway prompted a phone call from Jerry Erwin of Ceres. He was an engineer who retired after working for Caltrans in construction, design and planning. Erwin said that although the oleander bushes did help shield headlights from oncoming cars, they didn’t fulfill the original goal of becoming a barrier to cars crossing over the center line. In fact, he said, they proved to be dangerous.

“We were constructing the highway in Ceres, and one night we had a big accident there, involving a number of cars,” he said. “I was out there putting out cones so people would slow down, and I saw two cars coming toward me. They veered over into the oleanders and I saw the oleanders actually lay down before them, and then the cars were elevated and launched 30 or 40 feet into the southbound lane. I never knew that could happen.”

Sort of like the fighter jets on an aircraft carrier as they are launched for takeoff. So it’s a good thing there are now cement barriers around those oleanders, eh? But I hope the colorful bushes don’t become extinct as the pressure for expanded freeways builds in the future.

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