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99 widening starts this year
Lathrop Road interchange work set for 2012
The narrow two-lane Lathrop Road overcrossing of Highway 99 is being replaced with a four-lane bridge as part of a new interchange. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The ugliest stretch of sound walls through Manteca - the patchwork series of six-foot walls along the west side of Highway 99 between Lathrop Road and Yosemite Avenue - are being replaced.

They are part of the Highway 99 widening project that will get under way later this year.

Some 13.1 miles of Highway 99 is being widened to six lanes from four lanes between Arch Road and the Highway 120 Bypass.

Originally work on the $496 million project funded by Proposition 1B Transportation Bond Act receipts and Measure K sales tax wasn’t supposed to start until 2012 at the earliest.

Caltrans, though, was able to accelerate the road widening portion by a design that puts the extra two lanes in the center divide thereby eliminating the need for right-of-way acquisition.

Two interchanges - one at Lathrop Road and the other at French Campo Road - will start construction in 2012.

The decision to do with the Lathrop Road interchange will eliminate the Main Street overcrossing as well as the onramp and off ramp.

Instead, a new design that allows uninterrupted turn movements for some of the traffic going on and off the freeway will replace the Lathrop Road interchange built in 1955.

It will have four lanes across the bridge deck.

Plans call for North Main Street to be widened from two lanes to four lanes between Northgate Drive and Lathrop Road.

The bridge install will include vintage street lights with black-painted steel as well as brick work in a bid to reflect the Tidewater motif Manteca has adopted for downtown and elsewhere in the community.

It will also create prime retail and highway commercial locations as well as enhance the overall development portion of the northern part of Main Street.

Highway 99 is also being widened to six lanes from Arch Road to the Cross-town Freeway as part of another project.

The sound walls will be built in the state right-of-way. Some temporary access may be needed across private property to do part of the work, but other than that neither the construction work or walls will impose on private property.

The Caltrans design avoided impacting as many as 100 homes that would have had to have been removed if the freeway was widened on the shoulders instead. There will be property impacted at the new interchanges.

Caltrans also listened to Manteca residents - particularly those in the rural area east of the freeway - that were against placing the interchange at the Main Street location and extending Northgate Drive to connect to Southland Road. Such a design also would have eliminated the Lathrop Road interchange and could have encouraged truck traffic to cut through Manteca neighborhoods.