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MANTECA LEAVES MONEY ON THE TABLE

Result is inadequate funding for roads to handle growth

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MANTECA LEAVES MONEY ON THE TABLE

Airport Way looking north from the 120 Bypass.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/


POSTED March 11, 2017 12:49 a.m.

The Airport Way corridor is a microcosm of what ails Manteca streets as well as various municipal polices in place designed to widen major thoroughfares.
 It may irk more than a few Manteca motorists to know that while the city lacks funding to repave the overpass portion of Airport Way where cracking asphalt makes the drive less than optimum, Manteca is moving slowly ahead with a plan to start widening the corridor between Daniels Street and Yosemite Avenue.
The plan is to take it to six lanes with a center turning lane but what will first surface — optimistically as early as 2018 — is just three lanes. That would involve a continuous turn lane and one travel lane in each direction.
Why it isn’t going to six travel lanes or even four lanes in the near future is simple. The $2.4 million set aside for the project isn’t enough to do all the work. And the reason for that is brutally simple. The city has repeatedly failed to get an updated Public Facilities Improvement Plan fee in place to increase charges assessed on growth when building permits are issued since elected leaders first directed it be done in 2008.

Mayor frustrated staff
hasn’t yet devised an
updated PFIP plan & fee
Mayor Steve DeBrum periodically shares his frustration at council meetings. And when he does he usually repeats the same admonishment: “The city is leaving money on the table.”
How much money has been left on the table is anyone’s guess since fees haven’t been established. But if you took the middle of the road fees floated by Steve Pinkerton four city managers ago, the fee for needed roads such as interchange work along the 120 Bypass — including Airport Way — a new Austin Road interchange and surface street widening and expansion triggered by growth such as the embattled Raymus Expressway was pegged at $2,200.
Since 2008, Manteca has added 2,500 housing units. That means Manteca — in the mayor’s vernacular — has left at last $5.5 million on the table. It also means the city can’t retrieve that $5.5 million by charging it off to future growth. State law and court decisions have made it clear new growth can only pay its charge of the cost for infrastructure it creates.
The PFIP fee also lacks an automatic increase that mirrors inflation. That means projects already identified and covered with growth fees for PFIP funding — such as Airport Way’s widening — aren’t having enough fees collected due to construction inflation.
While the council has made its frustrations with the PFIP known, no steps have been taken to avoid funding deficits from piling up by using such measures as a temporary moratorium on building until the fee is  updated to prevent the city from digging an even bigger funding hole.
The last promised delivery date was two months ago.

‘Lean and mean’
staffing may be
cutting into bone
Part of the problem appears to be efforts to run the Public Works staff “lean and mean.” Not only does Manteca have half the number of street maintenance workers they did a decade ago but they have never really ramped up for major growth initiatives. Further bogging down the department was City Manager Elena Reyes — who has been on administrative leave for 15 weeks while an investigation into complaints about her interactions with employees is underway — pulling Greg Showerman who was the deputy director in charge of engineering out of Public Works for her staff. She told the council a week after she started that the job was too much for her to handle without two more staff members. Showerman is now serving as acting city manager.
Airport Way is being widened as most major streets are in Manteca — as growth occurs.
The council last month directed staff to make sure that areas where there are missing links in wider roads because property isn’t being developed will be addressed in the new PFIP fee if and when it is adopted.
The plan presumably would have the PFIP fees cover such missing links and be reimbursed as land is developed. It is similar to what was done with the new Prime Shine Car Wash. Instead of following the same policy they have for years, the city required the widening of Airport Way complete with curbs, gutters and sidewalks all the way to Wawona Street north of where the car wash was built. When the adjoining commercial property is developed the owners of the car wash parcel will be reimbursed by that developer for the road work already in place.

Environmental work
underway for Airport
Way widening project
In June the City Council on hired Mark Thomas and Co. to provide design and environmental work to ultimately widen the stretch to six lanes complete with continuous left turn lane, bicycle lane, curbs gutters, sidewalks, drainage improvements and relocation of utilities.
 For $533,667 the firm will provide conceptual plans, identify environmental impacts, initiate community outreach and complete the environmental review. Once the firm’s work is done, the ultimate budget for the project will be refined.
The city currently has $2.4 million set aside for the work. After the consultant is paid, that will leave $1.9 million. It is why the capital improvement plan for the next five years currently calls for only a left turn lane to be added with the two travel lanes replaced. That doesn’t mean when actual work started, however, that it won’t include more travel lanes. Staff is well aware the ultimate project will require more than $1.9 million that will remain in the account.
The second phase would eat up much of the remaining set aside without an ounce of asphalt being applied. That’s because the city needs to complete right of way acquisition, relocate utilities including possibly high voltage PG&E lines on both sides of the road, and final designs made for construction.
The third phase is construction.
The construction actually would stretch to a point north of the Yosemite Avenue intersection.
You can get an idea of the ultimate width for Airport Way at least to the east by looking where the curbs and sidewalk have been in place on the commercial developement on the southeast corner of Wawona Street and Airport Way where Prime Shine Car Wash is located. If you look north from there that will give you an idea of the land the city will need to obtain between Wawona and Yosemite  on the east side of airport Way to accommodate the ultimate project.
Airport Way between the 120 Bypass to Stockton Metro Airport has been identified in regional planning for San Joaquin County as a major roadway.
The city has also identified the need to upgrade the Airport Way interchange in the future and widening the overcrossing to four lanes.
That, however, is down the list a ways. The city is now moving forward with designs to improve the Union Road interchange on the 120 Bypass as well as creating an interchange at McKinley Avenue and the 120 Bypass.
Whether the Airport Way interchange is third in line depends upon whether the need is more pressing there or at Main Street. Based on how projects are moving forward and available funding it is doubtful work on either Airport or Main would be even within a five-year horizon at any time over the next decade.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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