Twenty-two years and counting.
That's how long Columbine Drive residents say they've been waiting for the city to put a traffic signal at Standiford Avenue and Columbine.
Their patience is wearing thin.
Everyone knows Modesto is hurting for money. Maybe a lack of funding has slowed the project?
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Not in this case, residents say. They have paperwork that shows developers chipped in $30,000 to cover one-third of the cost of the signal in 1988.
The traffic light was one of several improvements developers agreed to make when they got permission to build condominiums on Columbine and an office complex fronting Standiford, where Big Valley Grace Church once stood. The City Council voted 7-0 to approve the deal at an August 1988 meeting.
Since then, the traffic light has existed only on paper.
Columbine Drive resident Dawn White has been fighting to change that since 2002. She took over where her late mother left off. "My mother fought this for many, many years," White said. "She would say, 'This damn city, they promise us stuff and we never get it.' "
White has met privately with the mayor. Her quest was chronicled in a 2005 Bee story. She keeps meticulous records of her battle in a black three-ring binder. It holds handwritten tallies of how many cars zoom along Columbine, color photos of crashes and a copy of the 1988 agreement between the city and developers.
White and her neighbor Diana Lachmund get angry when they think about how much interest the $30,000 has accrued over 22 years. "If the city takes money and they don't use it for what it's meant for, that's the f-word -- fraud," Lachmund said.
But safety is their main concern. The lack of a traffic signal makes turning left onto Standiford from Columbine a potentially life-threatening maneuver, they say. A signal would force cars to slow down on Columbine. The speed limit ranges from 15 to 25 mph, but some drivers race along the street at up to 50 mph, they say. Drivers use the street as a shortcut between Standiford and West Union Avenue.
Collisions and near misses
Take a walk along Columbine Drive with White and Lachmund, and they'll catalog the crashes and near misses they've seen over the years: There's the gray Honda that plowed into a brick garage on the corner of Mayflower Street in the 1990s; the car that knocked over the fire hydrant on the corner of Amber Street four months ago; the yellow Miata that almost broadsided a street sweeper last week.
In 1972, a car landed in White's parents' front yard, demolishing all of the juniper bushes, she said.
The intersection of Columbine and Standiford itself has seen five collisions since January 2008, not an unusually high number, said Lt. Scott Blom of the Modesto Police Department's traffic division. Four years ago, the city posted a camera to nab red light runners at nearby Tully Road and Standiford. But the camera was taken down because it wasn't generating enough citations, Blom said. He cautioned that every intersection can be dangerous, depending on who's driving through it.
White recently returned to the City Council to plead again for the traffic signal. Her story caught the ear of Councilwoman Kristin Olsen, in part because the council recently approved spending $162,000 on a signal at Prescott Road and Cheyenne Way.
Olsen voted against that signal. She said she drives those streets regularly and there's no need for a signal there.
"I thought, you have got to be kidding me," Olsen said. "We just spent $162,000 on a traffic signal that, in my opinion, we don't need, when this intersection has been waiting 22 years. It's a safety issue for the people who live there and it's a safety issue for everyone in Modesto, because everyone drives Standiford."
Olsen asked city staff for a report on the overdue traffic light. Community Development Director Brent Sinclair said staff will study the issue and come back to the council, probably in March, with an explanation of why the signal hasn't been built.
White has a 22-year-old son. She hopes by the time he has children the traffic signal will be in place. It could be worth the wait. It took 22 years to build the Taj Mahal.
Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2378. Follow her at Twitter.com/BeeReporter.