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Here’s one thing we really don’t want to be like Pleasanton

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POSTED June 28, 2017 1:05 a.m.

A lot of people look toward Pleasanton — along with Dublin and Livermore — and sigh about how great it would be to like one of the Tri-Valley communities.
They’d better be careful what they wish for as in a few years they might just get part of their wish.
Manteca, like Pleasanton, is at the juncture of two major commute routes. The $81.6 million solution being floated to address safety, operational, and congestion issues at the Highway 99 interchanges with the 120 Bypass and Austin Road will rival if not exceed the Interstate 580 interchange with Interstate 680 and Hopyard Road in terms of complexity.
The solution, to give you an idea of what’s in store, has the exit for Austin Road bound traffic from the eastbound 120 Bypass starting just past the Moffat Boulevard overcrossing east of Main Street and then being joined by the Austin Road exit lane for southbound Highway 99 traffic that will first go over two transition lanes from the eastbound 120 Bypass to southbound Highway 99. The configuration on the flip side of the interchange will be almost as complicated.
The design makes optimum use of limitations engineers are dealing with at the 120 Bypass/99 interchange. And while nothing is cast in stone with a final decision a few years off, there is no doubt it is the most effective solution for what lies ahead.
What lies ahead is growth. It’s not just in Manteca that’s expected to go from 76,000 to 125,700 by 2040. More growth is coming to  Lathrop, Ripon, Modesto, Turlock, Ceres, Stockton, Escalon, and Oakdale. Tracy-Manteca-Lathrop are where Pleasanton-Dublin-Livermore were 20 years ago in terms of providing housing solutions for the Bay Area as well as places to expand employment centers. Southern San Joaquin County is slowing melting into the Bay Area. The spill over effective is also drawing in Modesto and Stockton more and more.
The end result will be the 120 Bypass will eventually will look like I-580 does today where segments that are 10 lanes between Pleasanton and Livermore. The San Joaquin Council of Governments Measure K road project list that envisions the 120 Bypass as six lanes by 2040 will be woefully inadequate.
The commute traffic isn’t going away. It will only get worse as the Northern San Joaquin Valley grows in its role as the affordable housing solution for Bay Area as well as expands as the logistical support center for the mega-region’s economy.
But does Manteca’s fate have to mirror Pleasanton’s when it comes to traffic hell?
It doesn’t have to be as severe as Pleasanton but that’s where we’re headed if the Northern San Joaquin Valley doesn’t step up efforts to reduce the future need for the proverbial 64-lane freeway.
The best way to reduce future freeway congestion is marrying heavy rail with surface transit systems on both ends — the job rich Bay Area and the relatively affordable housing communities of the 209.
The stage for the future was set earlier this year with the $400 million approved for extending Altamont Corridor Express south to Ceres by 2023 as part of the state gas tax deal.
Initial service calls for six trains departing the valley each week day. That number could easily quadruple as time goes on.
As things stand now even without straightening out the winding tracks over the Altamont Pass train time and car time from Manteca to San Jose is essentially the same. A plan to purchase new generation higher speed diesel engines would shave 13 minutes off the one hour and 53 minute trip from Lathrop/Manteca to San Jose. Future plans to straighten tracks over the Altamont could whack off another 30 minutes.
A monthly pass breaks down to $11 a day round trip between Lathrop/Manteca and San Jose. If your car gets 35 mpg, the same daily trip would cost $12 a day just in gas. Blend gas costs with wear and tear — depreciation and maintenance — at a flat rate of 30 cents a mile, and a car costs you $40 a day to drive the same distance. That 30 cent figure, by the way, is significantly below the IRS allowed 55.5 cents per mile and the American Automobile Association estimated of 59.2 cents per mile.
While there would be transit costs on both ends unless you are close enough to walk, have someone drop you off or bicycle, it would not push up the cost to take the train and other  transit to anywhere near $30 a day.
Besides the economics of the drive, there is the irritation of the drive. Having almost three hours a day to relax, work, read, and such means less wear and tear on people.
Equally important is it would reduce the need for expensive additional freeway capacity.
It would definitely be a cultural shift.
But then again driverless cars are becoming a reality, lifestyles are changing, and driving isn’t getting any cheaper.
By being on board heavy rail from the very start of the expansion of ACE service and pushing to build synergy and ridership, Manteca could avoid the commuter mess down the 120 Bypass from turning into the parking lot that Interstate 580 through Pleasanton often lapses into today.

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