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Highway 99 slowly sheds ugly image

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POSTED December 31, 2013 1:32 a.m.

How ugly was the Highway 99 corridor through Manteca just 12 years ago?

When radio commercials for the now shuttered Sexton Chevrolet played upon the ugliness of its 1950s-era steel building showroom  that was surrounded with nothing but asphalt where  In-n-Out Burger and nearby food places and stores are now located by having a howling wolf answer  that question, no one objected.

Although the commercial specifically asked how ugly the Sexton dealership building was, it fit in nicely with crumbling sound walls, an aging and inadequate interchange at Yosemite Avenue that was built in 1955, the weeds and dead vegetation that lined the freeway and the main entrance to Manteca, as well as the tired look of other nearby property.

Since then the interchange has been replaced and lined with landscaping. New sound walls have either been built or will soon be put in place.

The equally tired and ugly looking Lathrop Road interchange is being replaced with a modern structure that will include a brick veneer, Tidewater-style streetlights, and low maintenance landscaping. Trees and shrubs have been added to the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 interchange.

Additional landscaping including trees, shrubs and vines will be planted along the freeway.

When everything is done, the stretch of Highway 99 through Manteca could go from one of the ugliest to the sharpest looking along the freeway corridor in San Joaquin County.

But the landscaping will cost money to maintain.

While Caltrans is responsible for the landscaping maintenance tab at the 120 Bypass/Highway 99 interchange as well as along the corridor, it no longer covers the cost of interchanges connecting with local streets. Manteca will soon start picking up the cost for maintaining the landscaping at Yosemite Avenue and Highway 99 interchange at a cost expected to push $20,000 a year.

Concerns about future costs prompted the City Council to have Caltrans redo the landscaping plan for the new Lathrop Road interchange. Lower maintenance landscape as result will be put in place which in turn reduces future costs to the city.

The improvements for the Austin Road interchange being made this year will also include landscaping.  But it won’t cost the city a penny to maintain for 10 years. That’s because the Austin Road Business Park Partners will pick up the landscape maintenance cost for the next decade.

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