By JASON CAMPBELL
Highway 99 is the backbone of the Central Valley.
And on Wednesday, regional planners, elected officials and excited community members toasted the recently completed widening project and the renovated Lathrop Road interchange that will give Manteca another gateway to the community and enhance the route that serves as the main corridor for the San Joaquin Valley’s burgeoning agricultural economy.
With the Lathrop Road interchange serving as the background, representatives from Caltrans, the San Joaquin County Council of Governments and nearly every elected body in the region talked about the benefits to the local community, the motoring public and the entire valley.
“This is something that’s critical,” Manteca City Councilman Rich Silverman said. “Transportation is a critical element of the health of the Central Valley and we need more projects like this to further that – we need to keep it going.
“One of the great things that this is going to do is give Manteca a new gateway to the city because the interchange that was here before was somewhat confusing and it didn’t represent us well,” Silverman added. “This is good for our image and it’ll hopefully draw in some of that traffic.”
According to SJCOG Executive Director Andrew Chesley, the combination interchange and widening of Highway 99 served three major purposes – enhancing California’s arterial highway system, providing Manteca first-class entrance to the city and giving the traveling public a 6-lane modern freeway that they can enjoy.
An additional SJCOG and Caltrans project is underway to widen Highway 99 from Arch Road through Stockton to the Crosstown Freeway.
Originally expected to cost $250 million, the project came in $92 million under budget, and according to Caltrans District 10 Director Dennis Agar that money was pushed down to Modesto to help pay for the Pelandale Avenue interchange.
The project widened a 10-mile stretch from four to six lanes between the 120 Bypass and Arch Road. It also put in place a new interchange at French Camp Road, center barriers, and soundwalls.
California State Senator Cathleen Galgiani said that it was quality long-term planning that steered the project along – noting that she remembered that Chesley served on San Joaquin County’s transportation planning organization back when she was just an intern for Patrick Johnston, a longtime Democratic representative for the Central Valley.
Galgiani said that she was working for then-Assemblywoman Barbara Matthews when California’s Proposition 1B came to fruition, and it was negotiated that the Central Valley wanted at least $1 billion earmarked for Highway 99 improvements – noting that “it’s good to finally see legislation like that coming back around full-circle.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.