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These are the 30 Fresno streets most likely to see new signals

GeorgeByline

Have pity on the intersection of Grantland and Shaw avenues. This spot in the northwest corner of Fresno gets no respect.

Every year the city’s Public Works Department creates a list of intersections most in need of traffic signals. These intersections are ranked. No. 1 is the highest priority. Generally, more than 50 intersections are ranked.

The list is sent annually to the City Council for its review. The council on March 31 dispatched the 2016 list without comment.

Poor ol’ Grantland/Shaw was No. 3 in 2013. It’s No. 1 this year. Over the years other intersections farther down the list have gotten traffic signals. Not Grantland/Shaw. No matter where it winds up on the list of priorities, Grantland/Shaw is never much of a priority.

What’s up?

The problem is the list itself. It’s designed to enlighten the public. In reality, it’s a coded document with no explanation of the code.

Council members on March 31 could have cleared things up if they were doing their job.

Let’s back up for just a second.

Public Works uses a point system for ranking intersections in need of traffic signals. The department does the same thing for intersections with standard traffic signals but in need of left turn signals (green arrows).

The point system is based on a formula. For example, an intersection can get a maximum of 10 points based on overall traffic volume in both directions. An intersection gets 10 points if a school is within a quarter-mile. The number of correctable accidents, the chance of outside funding and the proximity of high-activity centers are other factors.

The formula for left turn signals is similar.

District 5 Council Member Sal Quintero years ago got me interested in traffic signals as public policy. Southeast Fresno is where historic Fresno and new Fresno butt heads. The result: Dramatic changes in traffic patterns. Traffic signals are key to fixing – or, at the least, softening – the problems.

Quintero from the dais has consistently goaded Public Works to help his district. Maybe that’s why only five of the 54 intersections on the 2016 traffic signal list are in District 5 – the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

So, when the 2016 traffic signal priority list came out I decided (out of curiosity) to compare it to the 2013 list.

There is was – Grantland/Shaw No. 3 in 2013 and No. 1 in 2016. But some lower-ranking intersections on the 2013 list weren’t on the 2016 list.

My assumption: Several lower-ranking intersections got traffic signals over the past three years, while Grantland/Shaw suffered a miscarriage of justice.

I met last month with Public Works Director Scott Mozier, Traffic Engineering Manager Jill Gormley Communications Director Mark Standriff.

In a nutshell, the Grantland/Shaw intersection didn’t suffer a miscarriage of justice. That’s because the 2016 traffic signal priority list is actually a half-dozen distinctive lists of priorities mashed together on a single sheet of paper.

The pivotal factor is funding.

Grantland/Shaw in the eyes of City Hall’s formula is the intersection most in need of traffic signals. But traffic signals cost big bucks. The city doesn’t use general fund dollars (money spent at the discretion of elected officials) for traffic signals. Traffic-signal money comes from a variety of sources – Measure C, grants, developer fees, other government agencies.

Different intersections are slated to get funding from different sources. If a specific intersection’s traffic signals are to be funded with money from a source with an empty bank account, well, tough luck for that intersection – and the motorists who go there.

Things get even tougher if more than one government agency is involved. That means an alliance of bureaucrats. Making such an alliance work well is like herding cats.

That’s how lower-ranking intersections can get traffic signals and higher-ranking intersections get nothing. The former were lucky enough to have a focused Sugar Daddy. The latter weren’t.

Grantland/Shaw is the perfect example. The intersection is in a semi-rural area west of Highway 99. But that area is poised for dramatic growth.

Mozier said the Grantland/Shaw intersection is a joint City/Fresno County project with federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funding. It’s a complex project involving the acquisition of right-of-way now in private hands. The county has a long list of tasks to complete before work begins.

“They’re pursuing it,” Mozier said.

And, of course, the check’s in the mail.

I told Mozier and Gormley that the public appreciates the priority ranking for traffic signals. But, I suggested, the public might be better informed if there were several lists based on types of funding. A citizen would know where her favorite intersection ranks among all other intersections with the same type of anticipated funding source.

As it stands now, Grantland/Shaw appears headed toward a No. 1 ranking for the next decade or so.

Too bad the City Council on March 31 didn’t dig into these details. I know I’m not the only Fresnan who takes an interest in traffic-signal priorities.

In the past year, according to Gormley’s staff report, one existing signalized intersection was upgraded with left turn signals and six intersections were signalized.

2016 Priority List for New Traffic Signal Installations (top 20 out of 54 intersections)

1.) Grantland and Shaw intersection – Located in Council District 2 (represented by Steve Brandau) – (No school within ¼ mile) – 35.33 points — $1.2 million estimated cost – Additional comments: Fresno County/HSIP funding.

2.) Gates and San Jose – District 2 (Brandau) – Lawless Elementary School within ¼ mile – 27.33 points – $433,000 – (No additional comments).

3.) Clinton and Valentine – District 3 (Oliver Baines) – Hanh Phan Tilley Elementary School within ¼ mile – 26.67 points — $1.12 million – Funded by CMAQ grant.

4.) McKinley and San Pablo – District 1 (Esmeralda Soria) – Heaton Elementary School within ¼ mile – 26.33 points – (No estimated cost) – Meets the criteria for pedestrian signal.

5.) McKinley and Highway 99 northbound off ramp – District 3 (Baines) – Jane Addams Elementary School within ¼ mile – 24.67 points — $400,000 – To be completed by High Speed Rail.

6.) Blackstone and Fedora – District 7 (Clint Olivier) – Fort Miller Middle School within ¼ mile – 24.00 points — $290,000—RSTP grant funded.

7.) Cedar and Woodward – District 5 (Sal Quintero) – Sequoia Middle School within ¼ mile – 23.67 points — $433,000 – ATP grant funded; meets the criteria for traffic signal and school signal warrants.

8.) Blythe and Gates – District 2 (Brandau) – Lawless Elementary School within ¼ mile – 23.00 points — $401,000 – (No additional comments).

9.) Harrison and Shields – District 1 (Soria) – Dailey Elementary School within ¼ mile – 23.00 points – (No estimated cost) – Meets the criteria for school signal warrant only.

10.) Cornelia and Dakota – District 1 (Soria) – Central High School within ¼ mile – 22.33 points — $389,700 – Meets the criteria for traffic signal and school signal warrants.

11.) Bullard and Grantland – District 2 (Brandau) – Herndon-Barstow Elementary School within ¼ mile – 22.00 points — $389,700 – (No additional comments).

12.) Clinton and Thorne – District 1 (Soria) – Hamilton Elementary School within ¼ mile – 21.33 points — $514,000 – Meets the criteria for school signal warrant only; funded by ATP grant.

13.) Barstow and Brawley – District 2 (Brandau) – (No school within ¼ mile) – 20.33 points — $506,000 – Funded by RSTP grant, AC Electric to install.

14.) McKinley and Winery – District 4 (Paul Caprioglio) – (No school within ¼ mile) – 20.00 points — $290,000 – (No additional comments).

15.) Behymer and Chesnut – District 6 (Lee Brand) – Riverview Elementary School within ¼ mile) – 19.67 points — $389,700 – (No additional comments).

16.) Belmont and Temperance – District 5 (Quintero) – (No school within ¼ mile) – 19.67 points — $396,000 – (No additional comments).

17.) Maple/Sommerville and Plymouth – District 6 (Brand) – Copper Hills Elementary School within ¼ mile — $389,700 – (No additional comments).

18.) Blythe and McKinley – District 3 (Baines) – El Capitan Middle School within ¼ miles – 18.67 points — $433,000 – (No additional comments).

19.) North/Parkway and Highway 99 southbound off ramp – District 3 (Baines) – (No school within ¼ mile) – 18.67 points – $300,000 – (No additional comments).

20.) Copper and Willow – District 6 (Brand) – Granite Ridge Intermediate School within ¼ mile – 18.33 points — $290,000 – Future Measure C Tier 1 Project.

And the 2016 Priority List for Warranted Left Turn Signals (top 10 out of 19 intersections)

1.) McKinley and Palm – Council Districts 1 & 3 (Soria and Baines, respectively) – Fresno High School located within ¼ mile – 25.00 points — $533,000 – HSIP Funding.

2.) Dakota and West – District 1 (Soria) – Roeding Elementary School within ¼ mile – 23.33 points — $350,000 – (No additional comments).

3.) Fresno and R Street – District 3 (Baines) – W.E.B. DuBois Charter School within ¼ mile – 21.67 points — $350,000 – (No additional comments).

4.) Chestnut and Shields – District 4 (Caprioglio) – Scandinavian Middle School within ¼ mile – 20.33 points — $470,000 – HSIP Funding; Fresno County has half of the jurisdiction.

5.) R Street and Tulare – District 3 (Baines) – (No school within ¼ mile) – 19.33 points — $613,000 – HSIP Funding (requires railroad preemption upgrade).

6.) Hughes and Shields – District 1 (Soria) – (No school within ¼ mile) – 19.00 points — $350,000 – (No additional comments).

7.) Cedar and Teague – District 6 (Brand) – Clovis West High School within ¼ mile – 18.67 points — $350,000 – (No additional comments).

8.) Barstow and Palm – District 2 (Brandau) – Gibson Elementary School and Bullard High School within ¼ mile – 18.00 points — $350,000 – (Existing LTP N/S)

9.) Clinton and Palm – District 1 (Soria) – Hamilton Elementary School within ¼ mile – 17.00 points — $501,000 – HSIP Funding.

10.) Champlain and Fort Washington – District 6 (Brand) – Valley Oak Elementary School within ¼ mile – 16.33 points — $80,000 – (Existing LTP E/W).

George Hostetter
George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

2 Comments

  1. Shaw and Grantland is a terrible intersection, although the four way stop has helped a lot. There is no school within 1/4 mile but Central High’s football stadium is just down the street and during events held there (football, soccer, track, graduations, etc.) traffic at that intersection is so backed up it can take 20-30 minutes to get across Shaw, not to mention that Grantland is one lane each direction which does not come close to meeting the needs of stadium traffic.

  2. I don’t know who is designing the traffic flows but they sure don’t drive these areas. They put those traffic lights in at Shaw and 99 that really screwed up that intersection. Why did they not just make the 99 south bound off ramp by the water park? that road is already a wide road that could handle the traffic. Why didn’t they do the same with the Grantland off ramp? Instead they go and take it out so now everyone has to use Herndon off ramp right where HSR is going to start tearing up first. West side people are really pissed about trying to get to the east of 99.

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