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Chucking 4-lane plan?

Manteca rethinking future Woodward Avenue width

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POSTED July 23, 2009 1:33 a.m.

There are dozens upon dozens of homes built decades ago along Woodard Avenue west of Main Street when it was still almost a mile drive to reach Manteca.

As development crossed what one former planning official once called the “impregnable” Highway 120 Bypass, Manteca started drafting a road system to serve the area as growth takes place. The assumption was that 60 percent of the city’s population would reside south of the 120 Bypass by 2020. That prompted planners to create three four-lane east west corridors – Atherton Drive, Woodward Avenue, and a road south of Woodward which will eventually be McKinley Avenue as it curves to connect with a relocated Austin Road interchange.

It would mean Woodward Avenue – a narrow lane country road – would be widened to four lanes with a center turn lane just as it has east of Main Street where there were very few homes.

Widening Woodward Avenue to the west of Main Street would mean taking out large chunks of front yards and - in a number of cases – put the roadway within a dozen yards or less of front doors and garages.

Now new leadership at City Hall is rethinking the concept that Woodward Avenue has to be four lanes to a point beyond Oakwood Shores, the much ballyhooed gated lake front community with million dollar homes that went bust when housing prices plummeted.

It is as much about reducing future growth costs that drive up the prices of housing as it is about putting in place a better traffic circulation plans.

Manteca is in the process of updating the traffic element of the general plan that serves as a blueprint for growth. The Community Development Department under the leadership of Mark Nelson believes tweaking the alignment of McKinley Avenue as it swings eastward will more than adequately provide needed traffic capacity to serve future growth to the south.

“Woodward Avenue would probably be widened but only as a two-lane road,” Nelson said in reference to the realignment proposal.

If that is ultimately what happens, it would reduce the amount of money needed for future major roads south of the Highway 120 Bypass by eliminating a costly four-lane Woodward Avenue that would have cost more in land acquisition as well as in construction.

It also helps preserve the semi-rural character of the existing neighborhoods.

Woodward Avenue west of McKinley could still end up being four lanes to serve future development. That, however, wouldn’t impact existing homes east of McKinley Avenue as the city’s development plan calls for a “town center” style development with offices, employment centers, retail, and higher density housing in an oval shaped area that would break up Woodward Avenue with most traffic serving the much ballyhooed Tara Business Park flowing north and south.

Nothing is official until the city adopts changes. If the future road width is dropped down to two lanes, though, it will mean concerns will be eliminated that the 15 homeowners south of the proposed 500-home Machado Estates being pursued on the southwest corner of Airport Way and Woodard Avenue have about a four-lane wide Woodward Avenue pushing up against their front doors.

Machado Estate’s environmental impact report was certified by the council with studies addressing a four-lane Woodard Avenue as that is the requirement currently on the book.

No development plans have been adopted so if the city alters its traffic element to reflect simply a wider two-lane Woodward Avenue that is what the developer would be required to build.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail

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