Modesto Plans a New Road Diet

Modesto plans to narrow Paradise Road from four lanes to three, install bicycle lanes, fill in sidewalk gaps, and add other features to make it safer. Image courtesy of City of Modesto.
Modesto plans to narrow Paradise Road from four lanes to three, install bicycle lanes, fill in sidewalk gaps, and add other features to make it safer. Image courtesy of City of Modesto.
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The city of Modesto was awarded approximately $3.9 million from California’s Active Transportation Program (ATP) to make Paradise Road, one of the most dangerous streets in town, a little safer. The project includes a road diet to calm traffic speeds and new bike lanes.

“It is the third highest [street] in the city of Modesto for traffic collisions,” according to Jeff Knowles. He’s a senior planning associate for Alta Planning and Design who is working as a consultant with the city of Modesto on the project.

Knowles and Michael Sacuskie, associate engineer and bicycle program coordinator for Modesto, described the planned improvements in detail at a special Economic Development Committee meeting held recently to discuss the project with residents.

Paradise Road is currently a four-laner without bicycle lanes. It also has two gaps along its sidewalk, about 600 feet in total of missing walkway. It’s a relatively high-traffic road, with about 10,000 to 15,000 vehicles every day—and drivers tend to speed along it. It is also well-used by people walking and on bikes, and there are frequent collisions. In the past five years, Paradise Road has been the scene of 77 collisions, 39 percent of which involved bicyclists. Three resulted in severe injuries, and two were fatalities. This is according to a safety analysis done by the consultants in preparation for the project.

The project will make changes along Paradise Road from Sheridan to First streets, as well as along several short street segments surrounding Modesto High School: Jefferson, Washington, I, and G streets. The city plans to convert Paradise Road to three lanes between First Street to Martin Luther King Drive.

The change is expected to reduce speeds by thirty percent without impacting the flow of traffic, according to Knowles.

Narrowing Paradise Road will free up space for new bicycle lanes on Paradise Road from Sheridan to First and along Jefferson Street between Paradise and Vine. There are currently no bike lanes throughout the project area.

Paradise Road runs right through West Modesto, an area that suffers from high rates of poverty and health issues. The road also runs past the city’s largest high school, with more than 2,500 students. One of the benefits of the road diet, said Sacuskie, is that it will make traffic around the high school less chaotic and safer.

“It will clear up a lot of confusion with pick up, drop off, and crossings at Modesto High,” he said.

Existing conditions on Paradise Road, right, include four lanes, no bicycle lanes, and 600 feet of sidewalk gaps. The proposed changes, right, include three traffic lanes, bike lanes, and a median. Image courtesy City of Modesto.
Paradise Road currently has four vehicle lanes, no bicycle lanes, and 600 feet of sidewalk gaps, as seen at left above. The proposed changes, right, would reduce vehicle lanes to three and add bike lanes and a median. Image courtesy City of Modesto.

As the application was being readied, Sacuskie and his colleagues met with stakeholders from Modesto High School, and incorporated suggestions and feedback from teachers and staff to improve the road diet design. For instance, they added a median down the middle of Paradise Road, which should both help students trying to cross the road and prevent mid-block U-turns.

The Modesto High School frontage also includes one of seven intersections on Paradise Road that are skewed at a 45 degree angle. These intersections give pedestrians a longer distance to cross, and they make it difficult for drivers to see walkers or bicyclists. The project will add curb extensions to help tee up the corners, thus improving visibility and shortening the distance for pedestrians, Sacuskie said.

“It’s the wild west at Paradise,” said Ron DeLoach, especially at the start and end of the school day. DeLoach, a member of the West Modesto People of Action Council, was one of about 25 community members who attended the Economic Development Commission meeting. He said the high school area is problematic, but so is the remainder of Paradise Road. The commercial area needs better lighting and high visibility crosswalks, he said, and refuge islands are sorely needed.

He has witnessed people of all ages taking risks crossing the wide road where it runs through his West Modesto neighborhood.

“I see older people with walkers trying to cross the street,” he said.

Road diets are not new to Modesto. In 2015, the city completed a similar project on College Avenue in front of the local community college, which is another high-traffic, high-speed area. A road diet, bicycle lanes, improved sidewalks, and crosswalks were installed. Subsequent studies have shown a seven-mile-per-hour reduction in overall speed along that section of street.

Bill Zoslocki, a councilmember for the city of Modesto, has been pleased with those results. “I was on the council when the road diet on College Avenue was proposed,” he said, “and I opposed it because I thought [traffic] would go into the neighborhoods.” But since the road diet went in, it is easier even for drivers. Now, he said, the synchronized traffic signals allow him to drive along College Avenue without having to stop for a red light.

The almost $4 million Modesto received from the ATP Cycle 3 will be augmented with $35,000 from Measure L, the half-cent sales tax that was approved by Stanislaus County voters in 2016. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2021, but not before planners conduct more public outreach to get input from residents.

Perfecto Muñoz, director of the King-Kennedy Memorial Center where the meeting was held, told the West Modesto residents in attendance that he appreciated them coming out to share their concerns about the project.

“We need the voices of this community if we are going to have a say [about] what’s going to happen in this community,” he said.

  • SDGreg

    In this flawed plan, it’s the parked cars that get the shade, not the bike lanes.

  • SDGreg

    It’s maddening. The parked cars get the shade, while those on bicycles get no shade, and are at risk of getting doored or run over.

  • Edward

    Yes. I noticed that too. It doesn’t take any more room but it does (usually) require a raised curb to prevent dooring. This isn’t much of a problem if the bike path is raised to sidewalk level.

  • jcwconsult

    MSU does very good and unbiased research, I trust them.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • GRY

    Too true KJ. Modesto, like Davis, is perfect for adding bikeways. The bike vs car narrative is a false choice. Bikeways should be an added solution, instead of of replacement for auto roadways.
    Bikelanes that reduce the carrying capacity or roads, and reduce parking, will always get opposition.
    Bikeways in addition too, not instead of, roadways is the solution that makes the most sense. That is also the solution that will get universal buy in.

  • Frank Kotter

    You’re letting your mask slip, Jim. The threat to your private car hegemony got you pretty worked up, eh?

  • jcwconsult

    A 5/4 down to a 3/2 on a 45k ADT road, no. But I can site a city council resolution to dedicate 26% of the paved surface to bike lanes on a 44k arterial that is the Business Route of 2 freeways.

    Medians with “Michigan turns” instead of left turns at the intersections often helps a LOT with both safety and traffic flow.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • JimthePE

    Can you cite one example of a transportation department seriously considering a road diet on a 45k veh/day road?

    I’m actually in a restaurant right now, looking out on a 5 lane, 40mph (regulatory) arterial carrying 42k per day. This road has rather poor safety performance, to the point the state DOT has singled out out for special attention. No one is talking about lowering the speed limit to 25, although in my opinion, a raised median would help a lot.

  • KJ

    What? Personally, I grew up playing on our streets, and also they were used for walkers, bikes, horses, deer, cars, etc.

  • KJ

    Modesto is pretty flat, perfect for bikes, including electric and/or cargo bikes. Yes, Modesto is hot for several months of the year and could use many more shade trees along bike lanes. But that just points to planting more trees, building more separated bike lanes, etc.

  • jcwconsult

    If you take a 4/5 lane 45 mph 85th percentile speed main collector or arterial and choke it down to 25 mph – you get gridlock or congestion so severe that many drivers will divert to smaller area streets that are in no way able to handle the 15,000 to 40,000 average daily trips that many main urban roads carry.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • JimthePE

    Capacity is somtimes a concern, but safety is ALWAYS important regardless of the v/c ratio. Yet many people seem to prefer to save a few seconds in exchange for considerably higher risk. I think that’s a bad trade.

  • PM

    *why *are *we *still *building *bike *lanes *on *the *wrong *side *of *parking

  • …except for communities that are ready to put safety over motorist convenience. Which is ostensibly every community.

  • If traffic is diverting to smaller, parallel streets, then traffic calming measures to make that not worthwhile or even impossible should also be undertaken.

  • Fortunately, automobiles are not the “most effective and flexible way to move people and goods” by a long shot, so redesigning the thoroughfare to make it easier to use other modes fits perfectly with the goal of improving mobility.

  • The “freedom” that motorists enjoy comes at the expense of freedom for everyone else and continues to cause thousands of people to pay with their lives.

  • jcwconsult

    At the expense of freedom – no thanks.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • That’s awfully nice of them, but the days of the ability for motorists to speed everywhere being more important than safety are coming to an end in more and more communities. If people don’t like that and want to keep driving fast, they’re free to take another route.

  • That capacity drives higher traffic counts is well-known. Reduce capacity and traffic counts will go down or people will deal with it.

  • Mike

    I own a car and am a traffic engineer.

  • jcwconsult

    I trust MSU far more than views of car haters.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • jcwconsult

    When the traffic counts are high, the capacity is NOT unneeded.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • jcwconsult

    Obviously, you can increase safety on a particular road by traffic calming the speeds down to a crawl and causing enough congestion that some drivers divert to alternate streets that are often much smaller and never built to be a main commuting and commercial artery. I tried hard to get a couple of council members to mandate a safety study of all crashes before and after the choke down the I-94 business route to include the parallel and intersecting streets that would carry the frustrated diverting drivers. No one would take up the task.

    The study was primarily about 4/3 conversions and particularly so for this I-94 Business Route.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • JimthePE

    Engineers must also consider ethics. Given that four lane roads and streets have higher average crash rates than three lane facilities, unneeded capacity is ethically hard to defend.

    Considering economics, the construction of excess capacity is also a waste of taxes.

  • Roger R.

  • Mike

    10,000? That’s silly. A 4-to-3 lane road diet can handle up to 20,000, albeit with some additional delay and queuing. Designing roadways for a rush hour that happens 1 to 2 hours a day, 5 days a week at the expense of safety 24-7 is a shortsighted mistake. But then again you are a (the only?) member of the National Motorists Association…

  • Tooscrapps

    Just another way to say what I said above. Over 10,000 ADT, the trade-off is time/delay.

    You omit any safety benefits and spout a blanket claim that no roads over 10,000 should be candidates for road diets, when this study is only about 4/3 conversions.

  • jcwconsult

    https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdot/MDOT_Research_Report_RC1555_376149_7.pdf

    Concludes the 20,000 ADT is too high and should be reduced to 10,000 and the peak hour number over 1,000 can be even more important.

    Ann Arbor ignored the MSU report to MDOT and put in a 4->3 diet on the western end of the I-94 Business Route, along with two discontinuous bike lanes that start and end NOT at intersections (maybe requires the flying bikes as seen in the movie ET). Rush hour problems are worth avoiding, particularly the outbound in the afternoon.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • Tooscrapps

    Please cite this study.

    If it one of the two that I’m reading, you’re twisting the findings. What was said is that a 4/3 conversation on a road with 10,000 ADT doesn’t result in any increase in delay. What you omit, is that 4/3 conversions drastically improve safety. What it doesn’t say is that under no circumstances should you do a road diet on anything over 10,000 ADT, just that there is a trade off in travel time.

    More misleading statements and fake concern.

    https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdot/RR773BUNIV_53B_539699_7.pdf
    https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/road_diets_can_improve_pedestrian_safety_without_compromising_capacity

  • GRY

    The best thing I’ve read recently relating to adding bike ways.
    https://www.curbed.com/a/texas-california/electric-cars-climate-change-sacramento-california

  • GRY

    These are great examples of urban streets and sidewalks that are now community space. Town squares are a good U.S. example. All of these towns have major roadways to carry cars and trucks that are clearly NOT community space, nor were they designed as such.

  • GRY

    I’m with you on travel time, IF the road diet is well designed.
    I have seen several instead just slowed down the road, did not improve safety, and increased travel time. So I’m for well designed road diets. I just have not seen a lot in California.

    As for “the most effective and flexible way to move people and goods” I stand by that statement. There is a reason that individual motor vehicles are the dominate form of transportation. It works. It is NOT the least polluting, but it is fast, scale-able, and can be used for distances short and long, and in urban, suburban and rural areas.
    Bikes are great, but if you have to move a box 30 miles, in the summer in Modesto, just not as good. Mass transit is good, but if you have to get groceries home, miles from a transit stop, not very effective.
    I’m a big fan of reducing our carbon footprint, but that is going to require a serious density increase in urban areas. Not useful in this Modesto example.

  • Melanie Curry

    “Road diets generally result in a net loss of ability for a road to do its job.” (corrected)

    I wonder where you got this–it is not true in the least. Road diets don’t necessarily slow travel–they might reduce speeds, but that doesn’t mean total travel time is affected. See the comment in the post above about Modesto’s previous road diet.

    The design of many two-lane roads without turn pockets encourages speeding, especially to get around or in front of someone who might decide to turn at an intersection. That’s the behavior that disappears with a well-designed road diet.

    Also, “the most effective and flexible way to move people and goods” is certainly not by private single-occupant vehicle.

  • Roger R.

    Streets as public space is not evenly remotely a new use. It’s just one that was essentially forgotten after WWII in many places…and now is being revived. Here are a variety of roads in just one city in Europe, Utrecht. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fcaec2d624c372d641a1095ba0785b533fe4759ac2b7218e51522ec845acb60a.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6f9ea853dbe88a19e854323a3b0ee28f12330425a1f795c9177ed0e61fcf468b.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/de00b2ea6822ef6c1be8f0b56e281a079567ab738a1779676014b3d4288774ef.jpg

  • jcwconsult

    At 8/9 lanes, perhaps it would be OK to reduce to 6. At 4/5 lanes, it is usually NOT OK to reduce to 2/3 on high volume roads.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • GRY

    Humm, have you seen the road design in Rome, New England, or Europe? Look up “the history of roads” or “roman roads” or look up the definition of “road” or “street”. Community space is not in the definitions.
    I get that some would prefer bikes over all other forms of transportation and that is fine. To them I say; get busy advocating for safe bikeways and more public space. But to take away vehicular roads is a step backwards. Bike advocates do what you can to improve what you want, but do it as a step forward.

  • basenjibrian

    That is flat out not true.

  • GRY

    Streets being used as community spaces is a new use, and was not the original intent of the roadway. In the past land was set aside for that purpose. Village squares, Parks, etc. Co-opting the streets for community space is done because of poor urban planning. Fix the real problem, and have all things done well.

  • Tooscrapps

    Any road? What if it was 8 lanes wide?

  • basenjibrian

    Streets are also shared common spaces for a community-especially in an urban setting. You are also assuming (automatically) that the only way to “move people and goods” is via two ton carbon-spewing assemblages of metal and plastic. Thousands of years of urban history might disagree with that.

  • GRY

    The purpose of streets is to move people and goods from one place to another. Most streets were designed to do this with individual vehicles. Adding transit, bikes, electric scooters and pedestrians means either new roadways for them, or redesign of the vehicle roadway. But it should not mean that the most effective and flexible way to move people and goods should be reduced. Road diets generally result in a net loss of ability for a road to do it’s job. If fewer people and less goods are moved, the road is slower and quieter, but not as effective as a way to move people and goods.

  • GRY

    If the street design is done well, the time it takes to travel should not be reduced, and could be improved. Sadly, many consulting firms do not do a good design. There is hope if the College road design worked as council member Bill Zoslocki says it does.
    I worry about keeping the bike lane next to traffic, instead of next to the curb, with parked cars as a buffer. That is just a general observation without any local knowledge of the site or conditions.

  • jcwconsult

    There are 200+ million motorists in America. We support traffic enforcement for safety versus hazardous drivers. We oppose enforcement for profits versus safe drivers using deliberately improper traffic engineering parameters to arbitrarily define high percentages of safe drivers as violators to increase tickets and profits. We support proper road user fees and fuel taxes are the best & fairest method – proportional to use, encourages fuel efficient vehicles, and are cheap to collect with existing systems that cost only about 1% of revenue to administer.

    You might want to take a few minutes to explore our site.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • basenjibrian

    Hmmmm. “National Motorists Association”. I need say nothing more. It’s sort of like a National Association for the Advancement of White People kind of group. i.e….when society finally begins to consider other values (and other peoples), the groups long in the utterly dominant position form their groups to retain or strengthen that dominance. I notice on your blogs complaints about speed enforcement, and if I bothered, I am sure I would find complaints about gasoline taxes or anything else that reduces the privilege of the auto-besotted.

  • jcwconsult

    Engineers must consider economics. Do note that MSU’s engineering department is the most respected one in the state.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • basenjibrian

    Your report assumes that the only purpose of high volume streets is to move traffic as fast as possible, conflicts with surrounding land uses and other road users be damned.
    This is no longer accepted as gospel truth.

  • jcwconsult

    The Michigan State University Engineering Department in a report to the Michigan Department of Transportation said any road with over 10,000 average daily trips should not get a road diet – and further that the federal guideline of up to 20,000 daily trips should be reset at 10,000 maximum.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

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