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A more inviting front door on the way
By this fall, plants and not weeds and dirt will fill the median at Manteca’s main entrance on Yosemite Avenue at Highway 99. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Weeds have greeted visitors at Manteca’s front door – the Highway 99/Yosemite Avenue interchange – since the original structure was constructed in 1955.

Now after 54 years the weeds are about to give way to trees and shrubs.

The Manteca City Council Tuesday is expected to call for bids to complete the $400,000 landscaping project now that Caltrans has released the plans.

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 have interlocking pavers installed.

The winning bidder will do all the work of installing irrigation lines and other improvements as well as acquire the plants and trees. The actual planting will be done by the California Conservation Corps under Caltrans’ supervision.

The landscaping is being paid for by Measure K funds that were set aside for that purpose as part of the almost $20 million modernization of the interchange as well as widening of East Highway 120/Yosemite Avenue.

The city was required by Caltrans to agree to maintain the landscaping once it is installed. Parks Planning and Development Superintendent George Montross put that estimated annual cost at $50,000.

The city has a long-range goal of landscaping both the Highway 120 Bypass corridor and what portions of the Highway 99 corridor they are able to do in order to change how Manteca looks to people who speed through at 55 mph.

Next up on Highway 99 is the new Lathrop Road/Main Street interchange that the city hopes will be able to move forward with landscaping features to create a good impression. That project gets underway in 2012.

The other is the Union Road interchange on the Highway 120 Bypass that is targeted for widening to four lanes as part of the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley.

There are not funds now available to help with such landscaping but it won’t be an overnight occurrence giving the city plenty of time to secure funding sources.

Public Works Director Mark Houghton last year indicated the key to making it work is to make sure landscaping is low maintenance and functional as well as being able to use a non-potable source of water.

The council several years ago identified the possibility of extending purple pipe down the Highway 120 corridor to provide water for landscaping irrigation. It would access treated wastewater at the city’s plant just a half mile north of the 120 Bypass west of Airport Way.

Purple pipe is already in place that will extend recycled water to landscape the adjacent Big League Dreams sports complex and the Stadium Retail Center. All that is needed for that to go forward is for the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board to give its final blessing.