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Tidewater crossing Lathrop Road

Signals, pavement going in this spring

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Tidewater crossing Lathrop Road

The Tidewater Bikeway will connect with a bike path already in place north of Lathrop Road when a missing link of pavement and traffic signals are installed later this spring.

DENNIS WYATT/The Bulletin


POSTED April 17, 2014 12:25 a.m.

There’s another traffic signal going up in Manteca.

And it’s not being put in place to cater to vehicle traffic.

Crews are preparing to erect signals on Lathrop Road to complete the connection of the Tidewater Bikeway with roughly 1.5 miles of separated bike paths that meander through the Union Ranch and Del Webb at Woodbridge neighborhoods before reaching Airport Way.

When completed in the coming weeks, you will be able to travel from the western edge of Del Webb at Woodbridge in the north to Woodward Park in the south either by foot, on bicycle or skateboard via six miles of separated bikeway with just 15 street crossings.

“It turned out much better than even my expectations,” noted Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford who was an officer with the Manteca Police Department when the city purchased the former Tidewater Southern Railway right of way in 1979. “People use it all the time to walk, jog, and bicycle or walk their dogs.”

The 3.4-mile section of former railroad track almost didn’t become a bikeway. There was a big push from residents who lived adjacent to the former right of way as well as others to turn the corridor into a four-lane expressway to relieve Main Street traffic.

Weatherford said that such a use would definitely have allowed people to reduce travel times.

But the vision of municipal leaders at the time was to create an urban oasis/greenbelt plus provide a safe way for bicyclists and pedestrians to travel around Manteca. Unlike many other municipal bike paths in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and even in the Bay Area, the Tidewater connects neighborhoods to shopping, amenities such as the library and parks instead of being in place solely for recreational use.

The Tidewater Bikeway was completed 15 years ago. It is the backbone of what eventually is envisioned as a 20.6-mile bicycle path loop system that would run along Atherton Drive to McKinley Avenue, swing north along the South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s French Camp drainage canal and then connect with the western end of the Del Webb segment. 

Additional spurs such as the one serving Spreckels Park are planned. One would connect with Big League Dreams and the proposed family entertainment zone adjacent to Costco.

The cost of the traffic signal that will match the same motif used on Tidewater crossing signals on Louise Avenue and Northgate Drive as well as at two downtown intersections is being paid for by Atherton Homes. They are doing the work, including connecting the bike path, as part of developing the current phase of the Union Ranch neighborhood north of Lathrop Road and east of Union Road.

The bike path and landscaping north of Lathrop Road will be maintained with funds generated from landscape maintenance districts paid into by Union Ranch residents and future development such as the Woodbridge Apartments. Del Webb maintains the segment through that neighborhood that is concrete instead of asphalt.

That follows a policy the current City Council put in place to make sure there would be adequate funds for bike path upkeep without putting pressure on the municipal general fund. The original 3.4-mile Tidewater, a stretch along Industrial Park Drive and Atherton Drive near Airport Way, is being maintained on the city’s dime. Also future segments of the bike path are being put in at the expense of developers. The only exceptions are city proposals to provide protected separated bike path lanes across the 120 Bypass when the Main Street and Union Road bridge decks are widened.

Weatherford said his favorite Tidewater segment is between Northgate Drive and Lathrop Road.

“(The trees have come in nicely) and there is always something going on at Northgate Park to enjoy as you walk by,” the mayor said.

Manteca is working with Ripon on a long-range effort to extend a separated bikeway into that city. It would go along the future extension of Atherton Drive south into the envisioned Austin Road Business Park. The bike path currently ends on Atherton Drive at Woodward Avenue.

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