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Another puzzle piece
Atherton going from Union to Airport next
Atherton Drive will be extended to the east from where it ends near Sparrowhawk Drive to connect with Union Road. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca’s main retail hub one day is expected to create a continuous 3.5-mile ribbon along Atherton Drive from the future McKinley Avenue interchange to a point just west of Wellington Avenue.

The City Council will take a step toward making that possible Tuesday when they consider approving a negative environmental impact document for the next extension of Atherton Drive covering 4,100 feet from Union Road to a point just east of Sparrowhawk Drive. The council meets at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

The $2.3 million project is being funded with growth fees already collected from new construction.

Once the segment between Union Road and Airport Way is completed sometime in early 2014, pressure will be taken off Woodward Avenue when afternoon commute traffic comes to a standstill on the 120 Bypass. That’s because Atherton Drive will be completed from Airport Way to Woodward Avenue just east of Moffat Boulevard near the Austin Road ramps to Highway 99.

The city changed its long-range traffic circulation plans south of the 120 Bypass to avoid converting Woodward Avenue into a four-lane road. Instead, with the just completed $9 million Woodward corridor project that included sewer and storm lines the road was repurposed as a wide two-lane street with a center median that will be lined with trees.

It was designed to protect the lifestyle of those in nearly 70 homes along Woodward Avenue. Plus the council believed it made no sense to have two parallel four-lane arterials within a quarter mile of each other.

Atherton Drive will also serve as the main surface street tying the 1,050-acre Austin Road Business Park with the rest of Manteca.

Austin Road Business Park includes:

•3.5 million square feet of general commercial or about 26 times the square footage of the Manteca Costco store.

•At least 2,358 traditional single family homes and 1,840 multi-family dwelling units such as townhouses, apartments, and condos  that can accommodate up to 10,200 people or just under a seventh of the city’s existing population.

•8 million square feet of industrial/business park, and office use or space equal to 17 times the coverage area of the Ford Motor Parts distribution center on Spreckels Avenue,

•The potential to create up to 13,00 jobs - or close to 50 percent of the existing jobs in the city - with between 3,000 and 6,000 jobs coming from the industrial and business park portion and up to 13,000 jobs from possible retail uses.

•Eighty-four acres that are zoned for mixed commercial and retail uses which means it could involve condos above stores or large condo, apartment, or townhouse projects interwoven with commercial uses.

As development takes place the missing segments of the Atherton Drive separated bike path will be put in by the private sector. Segments are already in place on both sides of Airport Way, in front of the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley and from the Paseo Apartments to Woodward Avenue near Moffat Boulevard.

It is also Manteca’s first four-lane arterial that doesn’t follow the north-south and east-west grid pattern of straight streets a mile apart as it curves. Atherton Drive will ultimately start in the west at McKinley Avenue and end in the south abutting Ripon’s city limits.