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99 getting wider with style
New Lathrop interchange will set new standard for corridor aesthetics
lathrop-road-crossing
Proposed design aesthetics for the new interchange at Highway 99 and Lathrop Road in North Manteca. - photo by Rendering courtesy City of Manteca

Highway 99 through Manteca is anything but appealing.

Motorists whizzing by at 65 mph see a collage of decaying sound walls, the back side of aging commercial structures, and weeds.

Its ugly duckling status among South County freeways will start a $496 million transformation starting next summer.

When completed, it will provide Manteca with arguably the sharpest looking interchange in all of San Joaquin County plus a 13.1-mile-long landscaped corridor complete with new sound walls.

The Proposition 1B project covers work between the 120 Bypass in Manteca and Arch Road at the Stockton Airport. It is made possible with a marriage of the countywide Measure K half cent sales tax and a chunk of the $1 billion state bond proceeds set aside for modernizing Highway 99 through the Central Valley.

Initial work starts in the spring/summer of 2012 on adding a third lane in the center divider in each direction. The second phase is a new interchange at French Camp Road while the third phase involves a new interchange at Lathrop Road. The fourth and final phase is landscaping.

The biggest visual impact of the actual construction will be the new interchange at Lathrop Road.

It isn’t going to be your run-of-the-mill bridge over Highway 99.

Its design may include elements of Manteca’s downtown streetscape design, utilizing brick and black painted steel design elements plus the Tidewater-style street lights.

The interchange design is expected to serve as a gateway to Manteca from the north marking a definite entrance to the city. By the time work is completed on various projects in 2016, the Highway 99 corridor through Manteca will be transformed from a bleak 1950s-era freeway to arguably the nicest landscaped stretch of the freeway between Red Bluff and Bakersfield. It will also include new sound walls to replace those in various stages of decay.

The new Lathrop Road interchange will include a bridge deck with four lanes, eight-foot-wide shoulders that can easily accommodate bicycles, and sidewalks. The off and on ramps will be on the north side of Lathrop Road with the ramps on the west side being aligned to tie directly with North Main Street that would be widened to four lanes to Northgate Drive.

The six-lane Lathrop Road interchange will replace a narrow two-lane bridge built in 1995 that has no sidewalks.

The Frontage Road on the west side would swing wide to connect with Crestwood Avenue.

The ramps on the west side would tie into Lathrop Road with a new T-intersection. Southland Road as well as the Frontage Road on the east side would swing away from the interchange and meet in a new alignment further to the east.

Some 1,700 trees have already been planted at the Highway 99 and Highway 120 Bypass interchange on Manteca’s southern flank that ultimately will create mini-woodlands. Landscaping has been put in place already at Yosemite Avenue and East Highway 120 with work now under way on landscaping along the 120 Bypass. Ultimately, landscaping will run north along Highway 99 to at least French Camp Road.

The French Camp interchange will also have new on and off ramps put in place on the north side with the two bridges on Highway 99 being rebuilt to improve sight lines and enhance safety.

The project will close the Frontage Road on both sides of Little Johns Creek and convert them into cul-de-sacs.

Also, another lane will be added to Highway 99 between Yosemite Avenue and the Austin Road interchange.

Sound walls will be put in place immediately across from Raymus Village on the east side as well as near the mobile home park on Southland Road.

The sound wall behind homes on the west side of the freeway between Yosemite Avenue and North Main Street will be replaced and extended to  screen additional homes that have been built in Aksland Estates.