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McKinley interchange plan worries residents

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McKinley interchange  plan worries residents

Caltrans is conducting a hearing tonight from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on the proposed McKinley Avenue interchange on the 120 Bypass. The meeting takes place at the Manteca Transit Center on Moffat Boulevard.

RYAN BALBUENA/The Bulletin


POSTED August 13, 2014 1:27 a.m.

The possibility of an interchange on the 120 Bypass at McKinley Avenue is generating anxiety among rural residents of south Manteca.

It isn’t the interchange itself but plans the city ultimately has to extend McKinley Avenue to the south and then swing east to connect with the proposed Raymus Expressway interchange on Highway 99 between Manteca and Ripon.

That future alignment besides going through a rural area is expected to eventually bring with it urbanization — something a number of rural residents have indicated they don’t want.

Caltrans is conducting a public hearing to seek input before they select the preferred design for the interchange. That hearing is set in the form of an open house tonight from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Manteca Transit Center, 230 Moffat Blvd. A short presentation takes place at 7 p.m.

Part of the project that essentially adds on and off ramps where the freeway crosses above McKinley Avenue also will involve putting in auxiliary lanes between McKinley Avenue and Airport Way.   

It also entails widening McKinley Avenue and adding bicycle lanes along with sidewalk at the undercrossing.

It is considered a critical part of Manteca’s plan to develop a 205-acre family entertainment zone on city-owned land straddling Daniels Street along the 120 Bypass between Airport Way and McKinley Avenue. The project is proposed to be anchored by a 500-room Great Wolf Resort.

• • •

McKinley Avenue  alignment south of 120 Bypass is contentious

Manteca leaders ultimately must decide where to draw a corridor to accommodate the McKinley extension through countryside that is now dotted with almond orchards, cattle, future school sites and rural estates. They could also decide not to swing McKinley Avenue eastward after it crosses to the south of Woodward Avenue to eventually connect with a new interchange on the Highway 99 corridor somewhere between Austin Road and Jack Tone Road.

That is highly unlikely, though, considering the envisioned expressway is a key component of development plans for the 1,049-acre Austin Road Business Park. The project has been nurtured as Manteca’s next big employment center.

The alignment is problematic for a number of reasons. 

• Residents and farmers alike have vowed to fight the alignment. It represents the first significant push back on growth in Manteca since the 1980s.

• Several potential routes cross into the flood plain where more than 70 square miles flooded in 1997 between Tracy and Manteca. It was the 11th flood since the mid-1920s. New state and federal laws may not allow a major roadway to go into the area without additional flood protection.

• A full-blown expressway would be expensive to build and maintain even if adjoining development paid for it as growth occurred. That has prompted city staff to float ideas such as making it only two lanes, banning any neighborhood commercial such as convenience stores that would in turn increases trips of future residents to reach shopping, deploying roundabouts instead of traffic signals, and banning truck traffic.

Even though staff members several years ago suggested the expressway may not be built for 20 years or so, opponents noted the issue wasn’t about timing as much as it was about changing the lifestyle and further encroachment on rural Manteca. 

In March of 2011 frustrated municipal staff took a directive from the City Council not to work on the alignment until 2013. The council’s decision was prompted in part by consistent pressure being applied at every opportunity by rural residents opposing the extension of McKinley Avenue. Work on the actual alignment has yet to be revisited.

The two-year hiatus in the planning process for what was envisioned as a major street to handle future Manteca development 20 to 30 years provided opponents the opportunity to build political momentum that could ultimately derail the expressway or force the city to pursue a more northern route that would impact even more rural residents.

Regardless, any alignment that goes too far south wouldn’t work without addressing flooding.

That means the McKinley Avenue alignment debate very well may have to move forward hand-in-hand with decisions about establishing an ultimate southern boundary for the city as it moves toward the floodplain area. If not, the city would have to enter into talks with farmers to build a dry levee that would not only protect a possible expressway but also future development.

There were a number of Planning Commission meetings in 2011 during which time a solid core of opposition has been raised to any alignment that is outside of the current city limits. While opposition was initially limited to farmers and rural residents it had started to include city residents who believe such a roadway would induce additional traffic on streets in their neighborhoods as well as on Woodward Avenue.

 

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