With growth to Oakdale come traffic issues; the following series takes a look at traffic concerns to the city as it population has nearly doubled in population from 20 years ago.
The center of town, with its clock tower atop an historic building, a park, within sight of the Oakdale Cowboy Museum, the intersection of Yosemite Avenue and West F Street, is one of the areas most identified with Oakdale.
To out-of-towners, that same intersection, where State Route 108 merges with State Route 120, bottlenecking travelers like sands through an hour glass with an adverse mixture of commercial, agricultural, recreational, commuter, truck and local traffic, thus causing a backlog of vehicles on what basically is no more than a surface street designated as a state highway, is a traffic engineer’s nightmare.
Even drivers proceeding straight, continuing on southbound Yosemite Avenue, are squeezed just past the intersection into a single lane, oftentimes backed up due to another traffic light just feet ahead.
There is no place least enjoyable in Oakdale, especially on a Friday afternoon, than gridlocked in choked traffic for just a single left turn lane from southbound Yosemite Avenue to eastbound F Street.
When contacted about the design, Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer referred inquiries to Caltrans since both streets are designated state highways.
According to Caltrans public information officer Steve Gonzalez the current 120/108 intersection was designed for motorists in 1958 with changes made in 1968 and 1983.
“The intersection and changes were done to serve the population and accommodate flow at that time,” Gonzalez said. “To make changes, Caltrans does periodic studies on requests from the public.”
In 1998 Caltrans planned to create a northerly bypass of Oakdale with a two-lane expressway on an ultimate four-lane right of way, connecting Highway 120 at Valley Home Road and picking up near Knights Ferry.
At that time, the issue divided the city of Oakdale, pitting residents against developers against downtown merchants and the perceived loss of tourism dollars.
Numerous parcels, but not all, were purchased to obtain the necessary right of way for the adopted Route 120 Oakdale Bypass. Since that time, a lack of funding and changing traffic patterns resulted in dropping the plan in favor of an alternative route.
To add to this feat of dubious traffic engineering and enhancing the congestion to the current 120/108 interchange, is that parking is allowed along the curbline – the side with the backup – at this intersection preventing those who want to turn right for westbound Highway 108.
Across the street, down the street, and once the left turn is made, no parking signs line the street in recognition of the value of a clear roadway to keeping traffic flowing.
In 2001 the intersection was graded “F” in a state study due to the heavily congested traffic and long delays.
“Caltrans always cooperated with cities on parking issues,” Gonzalez said. “With that particular intersection, those needs were mandated by the city leaders in lieu of a designated right turn lane.”
Gonzalez did not have information on when the parking was asked for or which city leaders made the request.
Approaching the same intersection along Highway 108/F Street from the west of the city is just as congested, this time a single lane, functioning as a main city street as well as a state highway, marred with traffic lights and heavy pedestrian traffic due to the local high school.
In a recent report on existing Highway 108, Caltrans stated, “Many of the intersections have traffic signals or stop signs. During periods of high traffic volumes, motorists must wait at the intersections, causing further delay. Slower-moving trucks add to the congested traffic conditions. These conditions, contributable to uncontrolled access and are expected to worsen…”
In 2008, average daily traffic volumes on Highway 108 showed 20,600 vehicles traveling through downtown Oakdale. Future 2030 daily traffic volumes are projected to increase. Caltrans has plans to address the Highway 108 congestion with the proposed North County Corridor, a project that is still several years away.
Stanislaus County Public Works Director Matt Machado said the benefit of the corridor bypass is that it will improve local access through the City of Oakdale as well as Riverbank, improve travel times, reduce congestion, and handle growth.
During discussions about the bypass, Oakdale City Councilman Tom Dunlop has stated that the congestion along the routes affects Oakdale’s ability to attract large businesses due to transportation concerns.
Until the corridor is or if it ever is built, there are no anticipated immediate modifications to the route as afternoon congestion and snarled traffic becomes a staple for not only Yosemite and Sonora bound travelers but locals maneuvering through town.
Next week: The Stanislaus River Bridge - Oakdale’s Only Northern Entrance