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Keeping cars as king is road to financial ruin

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POSTED February 6, 2009 4:46 a.m.
It is time to rethink the expensive proposition that the car always comes first in Manteca as well as the goal that drivers should be able to move about the city as quickly as possible.

Those dual goals cost a ton of money upfront as well as down the road 30 years or so when pavement must go through expensive rehab.

The dime for paying for all of the road work falls primarily on new development upfront and is reflected in the price of homes and the cost of locating businesses and employment centers in Manteca. It also hits everyone else. In a normal market, the cost of new homes drives up existing housing stock. The more they cost through fees paying for Rolls Royce service levels the higher new home prices go. That in turn pulls up the value of existing homes not saddled with the latest growth fee tab.

The interchange work Manteca needs along the Highway 120 Bypass as well as Highway 99 is essential and must be constructed to maximize traffic flow and minimize back-ups on the freeway. Other than that, everything needs to be re-examined.

Does Manteca really need a bridge over the Union Pacific railroad tracks on Airport Way?

The six-lane bridge would cost in excess of $15 million. The theory is as traffic grows with development that trains will start backing up more vehicles. Why, however, is that needed when one of the two planned grade separations crossing the two railroad lines between Manteca and Lathrop is already in place with a second bridge scheduled?

That definitely can serve future distribution centers along the Airport Way corridor where major distribution and business parks and envisioned north of Lathrop Road to reach Interstate  5 to head north, south or to the Bay Area. The planned interchange at Lathrop Road and Highway 99 gives them quick access to that key corridor. Why would you want to even tempt truck traffic to go down Airport Way and to access the 120 Bypass as have to add to the traffic already clogging the transitions to Highway 99 and Interstate 5?

As for serving Stockton Metro Airport business parks, there is an urban interchange in place that cost $35 million to construct at Arch Road and Highway 99 with plans to extend the corridor to Interstate 5.

A grade separation on Airport Way is overkill at best. Besides, the odds are there will be as many people ready to fight it as there was on the Center Street grade separation that Manteca killed in the mid 1990s. No one wants to have people in cars being able to look down into their backyards.

The level of service is another issue that costs money.  A wider corridor of six lanes moves more traffic quicker but is it necessary just to save 30 or so seconds? Time is indeed money especially when it comes to construction and maintenance costs. Smarter planning with denser housing near shopping and other public draws makes more sense than to keep making roads wider and wider.

The debate over traffic flow through central Manteca is somewhat the same. Yes, it is frustrating at times but is the delay that unbearable that we should spend millions just to shave a couple of minutes or so off someone’s drive time?

The actual design of neighborhoods can also reduce costs. Take Union Ranch East, a planned neighborhood of 425 homes just east of Del Webb that is under construction, as an example. It has just two access points – both to Union Road. That lends itself to future bus service. It also directs traffic volume down a specific corridor – Union Road and avoids creating variable traffic loads on a future north-south arterial to the east.

The conscious act of increasing density and reducing suburban sprawl also reduces the need for additional pavement.

Anyone who believes that once the current economic crisis is brought under control that we can go back to doing business as usual is simply setting government and taxpayers up for yet another even bigger fall down the road.

The most effective way to keep the cost of government from expanding is to reduce the need for services, maintenance and infrastructure that increases when people are farther apart from each other as well as from shopping, schools and other amenities.

Bigger roads - just like bigger houses and bigger toys - come with a big price.

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