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Bridge to Lathrops economic future nears completion
Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford and his wife Sherilyn take a tour of the privately funded bridge over the San Joaquin River that will connect River Islands to the main portion of Lathrop with Lathrop Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal. Lathrop Community Development Director Glen Gebhardt, left, maps out the project. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

• Number of homes: 11,000
• Job potential: 16,800
• Acres involved: 4,800
• Enhanced eco-systems being created for Riparian rabbit, Swainson’s hawk
• Eight major public river access points with “bays” that will have peninsulas with enhanced natural landscaping

LATHROP – It’s the bridge to Lathrop’s economic future.

It’s only 447-feet across, but the privately funded crossing of the San Joaquin River that will connect mainland Lathrop to the River Islands Development – where construction of the first 200 homes are expected – represents the dawn of a new era of development in a city that has waited for more than a decade to see the project’s first housing pads poured.

Thursday afternoon representatives from the City of Manteca took a tour of the concrete span that could be completed as early as September – joining Lathrop City Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal and Community Development Director Glenn Gebhardt in getting a closer look at the massive project.

With a construction price tag of more than $10 million, the bridge reflects a commitment by the British equity firm Cambray Group that has also included more than $20 million for an allotment of Lathrop’s portion of the joint surface water project and the sewer plant expansion.

Once the approaches on both sides of the bridge are completed, emergency personnel will have easy access and it will connect a currently secluded section of the community to the I-5 corridor.

“They were really a major player with some of the early upgrades that they paid for in advance,” Gebhardt said. “That was a big boost and I think it reflects their commitment to the project.”

While Manteca and Lathrop are continuing to grow closer together, Manteca City Manager Karen McLaughlin said she viewed the bridge as not only another way to connect the two communities but also the commitment of a builder to tackle the difficult infrastructure needed to pull off a project like that.

It is the first new crossing to the San Joaquin River in at least 40 years.

“I think that any way we can open up the connectivity between the two communities is a big benefit to everybody,” she said. “It’s a boost to the residential and that’ll bring jobs to the South County. It’s an exciting time and it’s nice to see this kind of progress.

“It’s definitely a huge boost for Lathrop.”

But pulling it off took more than just drawing up the plans.

According to Ramon Bautista – the Director of Planning and Entitlements for River Islands at Lathrop – it took six years to secure all of the necessary permits to allow the construction to begin.

Because the waterway is navigable, they needed permission from the United States Coast Guard as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Reclamation District 17 had to give their blessing because it involved a levee and both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game had to sign off as well – 12 separate permits from different agencies were needed before the footings could be sunk.

Now that the first 200 units are on the horizon, Dhaliwal says that it’s an exciting time for the community and notes that the project will provide numerous benefits for the community as a whole.

“It’s a ticket to both business and jobs for this community,” he said. “It’s the bridge to our future, and it’s good to be standing here on it today.”