Turlock's Main Street will soon get a much-needed overhaul, giving locals and visitors alike a smoother ride into downtown, but exactly what the project will mean for the 100-year old Sycamore trees that line the corridor and the street side parking residents use on a daily basis is still uncertain.
The City of Turlock held a public meeting on Tuesday with the intent to seek additional input on project options, with the focus being on the section of roadway from West Avenue South to Lander Avenue. Three options were presented on Tuesday that the City Engineering Department put together based on input from a public meeting held in January.
Both the January meeting and Tuesday's follow-up were well-attended by Main Street residents and those who travel down the corridor on a regular basis, but the consensus of the two meetings was vastly different.
"This has been very enlightening, almost 180 (degrees) from the last meeting," said Development Services Director and City Engineer Mike Pitcock.
The majority of those in attendance at the January meeting were very concerned about saving the historic Sycamores that line Main Street — 26 on the north side of the street and three on the south side.
"West Main is a beautiful street, a historic street. I see keeping it as is and just repairing it," said Milt Trieweiler, a resident of W. Main since 1973, at the January meeting. "It's a unique street in Turlock. We don't have any like it."
Two of the three options presented on Tuesday included eliminating parking on one side of the street and using that space to increase the landscape strips, which would give the trees more room to grow.
While there was some support for these tree-saving options on Tuesday, including Trieweiler, the majority of people were concerned about losing street side parking and the wisdom of keeping the trees that have caused severe damage to Main Street sidewalks and contributed to the poor state of the roadway itself.
Senior Civil Engineer Nathan Bray confirmed that the Sycamore tree roots went well under the center of the road.
The third option presented on Tuesday was keeping the current roadway alignment, with parking on both sides of the street, removing all of the sycamores and replacing them with trees that are less likely to have roots that cause damage.
This option appealed to Main Street resident Joel Mulgado, who said he'd prefer to keep street parking as long as the City plants new trees in the landscape strips.
"I think it's a good idea," Mulgado said about the overall project. "The street is really in bad condition and it's a main roadway and it should look good for someone coming into town."
The City asked everyone present at Tuesday's meeting to show their project option preferences by placing stickers with number one and two written on them on the corresponding design plans that they would choose first and second.
Fourteen stickers were placed on the existing roadway option (which would eliminate the Sycamore trees), seven were placed on option one that eliminates parking on one side of the street and increases the landscaping on both sides for the trees, and two people chose option two, which saves the trees, narrows the through lanes and adds designated bike lanes.
Pitcock said that from an engineering standpoint he understands why people would choose to remove the Sycamores and replace them with smaller trees.
"I will have a tough time recommending spending $2 to 3 million on a project knowing it will damage (the sidewalks and roadway) a short time after," said Pitcock about if the Sycamores are kept along Main Street.
In all of the options, the City is planning a complete reconstruction of W. Main Street from West Avenue South to Lander, with new sidewalks and gutters. The City will install new sidewalks on Main Street because the street reconstruction, with Americans with Disabilities Act intersection improvements, will be affected, however, property owners in the City of Turlock are responsible for the maintenance of both the sidewalks and street trees in front of their homes and businesses.
While the two-lane section of W. Main Street was the main topic of discussion on Tuesday, the City's plans for the four-lane section from West Avenue South to Tully Road was also presented.
The City is considering doing a pavement overlay, similar to what they did on Monte Vista Avenue, and then redoing the median along that segment of roadway to close many of the turn areas. The installation of bike lanes was also discussed.
Mary Jackson, former City Council member and parent of Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy students, said that putting a bike lane on W. Main Street would create a "suicide lane." Jackson suggested putting a bike lane on either W. Olive Avenue or Flower Street as an alternative to W. Main.
Jackson and other Osborn parents present at Tuesday's meeting also voiced concerns of the overall safety of the roads around the school, located on the corner of W. Main and Soderquist.
Pitcock said that student safety should be increased by closing some of the turn areas off W. Main Street and that the City and school district are looking into other ways to solve the traffic issues around Osborn.
Pitcock said he and Bray would take into consideration all of the input they received at Tuesday's meeting and put together a proposal for the W. Main Street project to present to the City Council for consideration in the coming months.
The City is still seeking public input, and those wishing to comment on the project can contact Bray at 209-668-5599 ext. 4435 or email@example.com.