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99/Yosemite landscaping in limbo
Caltrans backing out of providing manpower for planting
UGLY1 8-3-09
Weeds continue to serve as the landscaping at the Highway 99 and Yosemite Avenue interchange just as it did when the original interchange opened in1955. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

The deal was simple.

Manteca would put up the money, pay for irrigation work and do the improvements, cover the ongoing maintenance cost plus purchase the shrubs and trees while Caltrans would supply the labor using the California Conservation Corps (CCC) to landscape the weed-infested and barren Highway 99 and Yosemite Avenue interchange.

Now the city is scrambling to save the $400,000 project thanks to state budget problems that are prompting Caltrans to renege on a commitment to provide the manpower using CCC crews to plant around 1,000 shrubs and trees once other improvements are made.

And it’s not just the manpower to plant the landscaping that is in jeopardy once other improvements are made. There is a question whether Caltrans can afford staff time to issue an encroachment permit to allow the contractor to do the work.

The status of the project for Manteca’s “front door” is being reviewed during Tuesday’s 7 p.m. Manteca City Council meeting at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

The city had already awarded a contract to Watkins & Bortolussi to perform the bulk of the work using $400,000 in Measure K funds specifically restricted to landscaping transportation corridors. If Manteca doesn’t spend the money, it could lose it to other projects elsewhere in San Joaquin County.

The contractor has agreed to an extension of the contract to Oct. 6, 2009. That addendum is being considered Tuesday by the council. Should the council be unable to proceed at that time, they will be forced to pay the contractor a set amount for expenses they had incurred.

It is similar to Library Park work where the contractor was paid $25,000 after agreeing to several extensions. In both cases the city only proceeded to bid after assurance from other parties that everything was going to be done. It got that promise from Caltrans on the interchange as well as Verizon and PG&E involving the relocation of overhead and underground lines for the Library Park expansion project.

Mayor Willie Weatherford Sunday said the city is trying to stay on top of the situation and see if the state will be able to secure CCC workers. If not, he is hoping some group may step up to provide the manpower that essentially involves planting the actual trees and shrubs much like what the Crossroads Community Church is doing in October with 200 redwood trees along a stretch of the Tidewater Bikeway that runs along Moffat Boulevard.

“We’re going to have to get creative with the way things are going,” Weatherford said.

At one point in the late 1990s, a community-based group tried to provide the manpower and purchase the material needed to beautify the entrance only to be derailed by the bureaucracy and a hang up over who was going to pay for the ongoing maintenance. Almost five years ago, Manteca signed an agreement with Caltrans that indicated the city would be responsible for maintenance that is expected to run as high as $50,000 a year.

The interchange has never been landscaped since the original interchange opened in 1955. For years, weeds and dirt have greeted travelers passing through the city’s busiest interchange that has been dubbed as “Manteca’s front door.”

The plan calls for all four quadrants of the interchange will be landscaped as well as the median directly in front of the Best Western Inn as well as In-n-Out Burgers. It will also include a monument-style sign reading “Manteca” that will be lighted up. The median on the east side of the interchange will interlocking pavers installed.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail