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Lathrop Road extension to high school may open in July

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POSTED May 27, 2009 1:56 a.m.
LATHROP – School buses and parents driving their children to Lathrop High School could start dropping off the students to the front entrance instead of in the back of the campus when school starts in the fall.

Bidding for the improvements to Lathrop Road west of Interstate 5 starts this week, with the bid recommendations expected to go before the City Council at their regular meeting on June 16.

Work involved in the road improvement project is anticipated to take about a month, with the opening of this western section of Lathrop Road to traffic coming in “late July, maybe sooner,” Public Works Director Steve Salvatore told council members last week.

The road though will be opened without the street lights.

It could be an “eight- to 12-week process to build those lights,” Salvatore said.

The bidding project will involve the installation of road signs and striping of this section of Lathrop Road which stretches from the Manthey  frontage road, to the west end of the high school, plus the installation of the street lights and construction of a pedestrian walkway under the Lathrop Road freeway overpass to provide safe passage for students walking to school.

The streetlights will be installed as soon as possible after the road is opened to traffic.

All expenses involved in this project will be paid for by the Manteca Unified School District. If the total bid for this project is $350,000 or under, the district will pay for the construction of this pedestrian walkway, according to the resolution approved by the council last week. If the total bid including this walkway exceeds that amount, the city will meet with the district to determine if the latter has additional funds available for the pedestrian pathway.

The safety of students walking to the school from their homes on the east side of the freeway and back has been a major concern for many Lathrop residents. Likewise, concerned residents have been very vocal about the use of Dos Reis Road, a two-lane country road, to access the school from the back citing traffic safety concerns.

When the school opened its doors for the first time in August of last year, the only entrance available to the school was from Dos Reis in the back since the western leg of Lathrop Road was not yet open to traffic because improvements were not complete. Richland Communities, the master developer of Central Lathrop Specific Plan area in which the high school is located, ran into financial difficulties and was not able to bring Lathrop Road to completion.

The above improvements to Lathrop Road are “alternative interim solutions” so as to provide access to the high school site from the front entrance using a route that is safer than Dos Reis Road which, in addition to being just two lanes, is lined on both sides by open ditches.

Dan Doyle, a Lathrop farmer who lives on Dos Reis Road and one of the longtime critics of the high school opening prematurely, lauded the Lathrop Road improvements and its impending opening to traffic.

“It’s for the kids… to get this road open. We can’t open it fast enough. We need to finish this project,” he said.

As for the city officials’ move to open the campus before Lathrop Road was completed and before a sewer connection for the school was put in place, Doyle said, “I think the city jumped the gun to have the school occupied. I think we all jumped the gun and I hope we all learned a lesson.”

The city “should not have opened the school for someone’s political gain,” added resident Rosalinda Valencia without naming any names.

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