If you have ever driven along Highway 108 in Riverbank there is a curve where the road turns into Callander Avenue, adjacent to St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church, in a pedestrian-heavy area. Though the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour, the roadway there has been cause for concern for safety by many residents in the area and parishioners at St. Frances of Rome Church for the past few years. These concerned citizens had their voices heard at a meeting held last week between the City of Riverbank and Caltrans District 10.
Caltrans owns the property in question so Dennis Agar, District 10 Director; Lawrence Hernandez, Senior Transportation Engineer and Herby Lissade, Deputy Director Maintenance and Operations District 10 along with Riverbank city staff, Mayor Richard O’Brien, and Councilmember Darlene Barber-Martinez were on hand to listen to the community’s concerns. It was a regularly scheduled City-Caltrans session, held quarterly.
“The meeting at the City Council Chambers came about from a group of concerned citizens that asked to meet with me regarding unsafe conditions for the parishioners that attend St. Frances of Rome,” said Barber-Martinez. “The concerns were from the heavy traffic on the road in front of the church. As stated, there are thousands of people that attend Mass, catechism and other events at the church.”
The City Council Chambers were filled with several people from the community attending the meeting, including St. Frances of Rome Pastor Misael Avila, who originally voiced the concerns that prompted the discussion.
Community members very peacefully spoke about their concerns and thanked the officials attending for taking the time to listen to them.
“Comments from the community were spot-on,” stated O’Brien. “Caltrans is aware of it and until the meeting it was not their top priority. They may shift from First Street to Callander or they may be able to do both efforts at once.
“If you heard the discussion afterwards, we are looking for grants from federal monies to assist Caltrans and the city in doing repairs on Callander and also on Patterson Road.”
For the past two and a half years Caltrans District 10 has met with city staff and council on a quarterly basis, according to O’Brien, where agreements on various maintenance and cleanup efforts have been assessed by both parties.
“Caltrans has been working on 108 at Oakdale and Patterson Road where fatalities have happened,” added O’Brien. “They are looking very seriously at First Street where fatalities have happened.
“Callander Avenue has not seen any significant accidents in the last 10 years but Caltrans has looked at Callander and (is) looking at ways to improve and upgrade that stretch of the road.”
There were members of the community that expressed they have witnessed several close calls where people could have been injured including the elderly and children.
The parking lot is not a problem but some people stated that coming into the church or getting out of the church can be troublesome, due to the volume of traffic and speeds that they go.
Riverbank resident Scott McRitchie is with St. Vincent de Paul, which uses a couple rooms from St. Frances of Rome to feed the needy twice a week, an effort that includes seniors, disabled, or people in need.
“I would like to see sidewalks along 108 and a crosswalk at Topeka and Callander lighted at Topeka like those near schools, plus a sign at the curve ‘Pedestrian Crossing’ activated by a push button activated by the pedestrian,” stated McRitchie. “It probably won’t come to pass and a crossing will be installed at either Santa Fe, or Stanislaus, which will give cars more time to react.
“The only problem with that is, people from the trailer park, cabins, etc., won’t walk that far and then lug groceries back again, given their physical condition.”
Development Services Administration Manager Kathleen Cleek talked to Caltrans in May and they discussed putting the crosswalk on Stanislaus Street or Santa Fe Street due to the ability for the driver to see it and have time to stop since drivers would be coming out of a blind turn.
“They are in the process of studying that right now and they told me that it would probably take four to five months,” said Cleek.
Caltrans will be conducting a traffic study including pedestrians and vehicles on the streets discussed.
Another topic that was discussed was a need for sidewalks in front of the church. There were 702 signatures forwarded to Caltrans from the community to show their support for sidewalks in that area.
“I was impressed that the community came together and gave their presentation,” noted Barber-Martinez. “The visual aids helped all to see exactly the location, the issues, and the concerns. I’m glad to see we as a city can work together with our citizens to better our community.”
Mayor O’Brien said the Caltrans District 10 team has been “very responsive” to city concerns.
“They are very meticulous and it will take time,” he noted. “You may have heard of the sidewalk that is being put in along 108 in front of the mobile home park just north of O’Brien’s Market. That has taken quite a bit of time to get it into the Caltrans cycle of construction. This may be sped up on the calendar but it still will take time and the outcome will be for safety.”