A plan to add street lighting to Third Street along Whitmore Park met with protest from Vice Mayor Linda Ryno Monday evening.
Last October the Ceres City Council approved a $349,857 contract with Power Design Electric, Inc. to install new street lighting in the area around the downtown park. The lighting improvements are part of an effort to ready downtown for a train platform to serve the proposed Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train station platform. While the ACE train platform will be located west of Highway 99, parking will be situated near the park, specifically 116 diagonal parking stalls along El Camino Avenue stretching from Central Avenue to the southern point of Whitmore Park. To create room for parking spaces just west of Whitmore Park, a new concrete retaining wall must be constructed shouldering the raised freeway. Pedestrians will be able to access the train platform via two new pedestrian paths crossing under the freeway.
Adding eight lights to Third Street along the park’s eastern edge will add to the security should people need to park there to catch the ACE train.
Ryno expressed fears that the eight lights will overpower the feel of the park.
“So we’re going to go from having a small historical park that has been in Ceres for many years and now we’re going to light up the entire east side of the park … so it’s basically going to look like a BART parking lot?” asked Ryno. City manager Toby Wells corrected her, saying the lights would be similar to the old-fashioned lights on Fourth Street. She then found fault with the eight lamps that will go in on the west side of Third Street.
“The primary purpose of this project,” said Wells, “is lighting for the downtown area, to adequately light all the parking areas where anybody could potentially could park for both visiting the park and for visiting ACE trains.” He said the idea is to foster a safer place for anyone to park.
Ryno continued with her fears that “we’re going to forget about our park and our park is going to be wiped out at some point and it’s going to be a BART parking lot.”
Wells said the parking near the TID building could be marked for restricted parking times.
Mayor Chris Vierra said a survey revealed that riders want a safe feel to the parking areas and lighting improves parking for ridership.
Ryno was outvoted 4-1 to approve the $109,891 change order for the Third Street lighting. The work will be added to the installation of new street lighting along El Camino Avenue between North Street and Magnolia Street; along North Street between Second and Fourth streets, and in Whitmore Park. Work in the park includes a new power pedestal cabinet, conductors and pull boxes.
The expanded work brings the total job cost to $494,733.
Wells said the city has $500,000 to spend for lighting, and that expanding the work will benefit residents of Ceres and future ACE Train riders. Specifically, the work includes boring, trenching, excavating, electrical facilities, constructing footings, and installing nine new street lights at the southeast corner of Third and North streets and along the west side of Third Street along Whitmore Park.
City officials are anticipating Ceres getting a station when the ACE train line is extended as far south as Ceres in the first phase. Currently the train runs four trips per day between Stockton and the Bay Area but plans call for an extension to Ceres with stop platforms in downtown Manteca, Ripon, Modesto and Ceres. An additional phase will take the ACE train to Merced.
The train line to Ceres could be reality by 2023.