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$81.6M project would address congestion, reduce carnage, & alter Manteca road plans

It’s just a bunch of lines on a map — for now.
But if the $81.6 million cure to address congestion, death, injuries, and almost daily accidents involving traffic heading into the existing Highway 120 Bypass and Highway 99 interchange goes forward, it will be a major game changer for commuters, truckers, and Manteca residents.
And if the $81.6 million plan goes forward instead of a $58.7 million alternative that would eliminate freeway access at Austin Road it could trigger a rethink of future major road routes south of the 120 Bypass. That means the envisioned Raymus Express interchange midway between Austin and Jack Tone roads may not be needed. If so, that could save as much as $100 million in future road costs to handle Manteca growth given the Raymus interchange would require shifting Highway 99 to the east away from the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to accommodate on and off ramps.
To relieve the back-up on the eastbound 120 Bypass as it squeezes down to one lane to reach Highway  99 southbound is not as simple as adding another lane. The $81.6 million plan requires braided ramps, so-called because they employ short connectors from one ramp to reach another similar to what you encounter driving the Interstate 680/580 interchange in Pleasanton.
It would double the capacity to handle eastbound 120 Bypass traffic heading south on Highway 99 toward Modesto.
It would double the capacity to handle northbound Highway 99 traffic heading west on the 120 Bypass toward Main Street.
It would have the exit lane for Austin Road for traffic traveling east on the 120 Bypass start where the southbound Highway 99 transition lane now starts and then parallel the transition lane and Highway 99 before swinging to the southwest to intersect Moffat. It would then continue as a two-lane road and swing back heading east to T-intersect with Austin Road.
uIt would have the exit lane for Austin Road for southbound Highway 99 traffic start just past the crossover bridge for the 99 to 120 Bypass westbound and 120 Bypass to Highway 99. That ramp would then become a bridge over the 120-99 transition lanes before joining the Austin Road exit ramp that starts on the 120 Bypass to create a two-lane ramp as it continues paralleling the 99 freeway.
uIt widens the 120 Bypass from a point west of Main Street to the Highway 99 interchange to three lanes in each direction. That will also require the 120 Bypass bridges over Van Ryn Avenue as well as Moffat Boulevard and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to be widened to three lanes in each direction.
It would create a new Austin Road northbound on-ramp at a T-intersection with the ramp first heading to the southeast and curving back under the freeway. It will parallel the northbound Highway 99 freeway and part of the transition ramp from northbound 99 to the westbound 120 Bypass until a point where traffic originating on Austin Road that wants to head to the 120 Bypass can do so at a braid connecting it to the northbound 99 to westbound 120 Bypass.  Traffic from Austin Road wanting to head north on Highway 99 would continue on the Austin Road onramp and merge with the freeway north of the where the transition ramp from the eastbound 120 Bypass merges with northbound Highway 99.
Moffat Boulevard would no longer connect directly to Austin Road. There would, however, still be an onramp to southbound Highway 99 that would be accessed from a connector road to Austin Road.
A new one off ramp would be built from northbound 99 to Austin Road
The Frontage Road that intersects with Austin Road would be shifted to the east.
Highway 99 southbound from the 120 Bypass would be widened from four to five lanes.
Highway 99 northbound from Austin to the 120 Bypass would be widened from four to five lanes.
Highway 99 to a point south of Austin Road would be widened from six to eight lanes of traffic and shifted to the east to avoid the Union Pacific right-of-way that will be double tracked to accommodate extending Altamont Corridor Express service into Ceres by 2023.
The Austin Road bridge across Highway 99 would also be extended across the railroad tracks to eliminate an at grade track crossing much like was done with Jack Tone Road in Ripon.
Austin Road across Highway 99 will be widened from two lanes to four lanes and include left turn pockets much like the new Lathrop Road bridge that’s part of the Highway 99 interchange.
Woodward Avenue would no longer connect with Moffat due to the need to move the railroad crossing further south for the off ramp traffic to reach Austin Road.

Interchange upgrade
is a regional priority
The first alternate just described includes $77.1 million for construction and $4.5 million for land acquisition. The less expensive alternative would require $58 million for construction and $700,000 for right of way.
The interchange has become a regional priority given the congestion impacts commuters up and down the Highway 99 corridor and crimps the movement of goods. Most of the deaths and injuries — 11 deaths,  815 injuries in 1,261 accidents over a seven-year period — do not involve Manteca residents.
The CHP handled 240 overall accidents in 2016 with about a hundred of those crashes involving injuries. That reflects an accident every 1.5 days that is serious enough to require a CHP response. The bulk of the accidents — and where almost every death occurs — is in the eastbound lanes in the 1.5-mile stretch starting midway between the Union Road and Main Street interchanges and the Highway 99 transition ramps.
Back in 2010 an accident requiring CHP response happened every 2.8 days on the 120 Bypass.
Mayor Steve DeBrum is spearheading an effort by local officials through the region to keep pushing for the interchange upgrades. It wasn’t even on Caltrans or the San Joaquin County Council of Governments’ radar until Manteca started the push after it became clear the 120 Bypass is the most deadly and accident prone freeway in the 209. The bulk of that is attributed to traffic movements connected with the bottleneck going from the eastbound 120 Bypass to southbound Highway 99.
At the same time, traffic southbound on Highway 99 has started backing up on a regular basis approaching the 120 Bypass transition ramp. Accidents, however, are virtually nil compared to those connected to the eastbound 120 to southbound 99 transition ramp.
All seven cities in San Joaquin County along with the county itself has made resolving the 120 Bypass-99 issues a regional problem.
Full funding has been identified yet.
Public input on the two alternatives will be sought in the coming months. The goal to start construction is 2021 or 2022.

Alternative one could
trigger rethink of South
Manteca traffic planning
When plans were advancing for the 1,050-acre Austin Road Business Park, Caltrans made it clear the existing Austin Road interchange would not work to handle the anticipated truck traffic and vehicles.
The 1955-era interchange in its present configuration could not handle a significant jump in traffic. Operational issues involving ramp traffic would be nightmarish given the close proximity of the 120 Bypass and Austin Road interchanges on Highway 99.
That is when the Raymus Expressway interchange for Highway 99 was proposed. The cost was pegged at between $100 million and $120 million due to a major shift of the freeway that was needed to accommodate the overpass of both the freeway and railroad tracks.
If the expressway interchange is determined not to be needed, it could ease fears of residents along the expressway’s ultimate route that it would lapse into a four-lane road or a major truck route. If Austin Road as it is proposed to be reconfigured in alternative one is built, it would take the pressure off the city to fund what would be the city’s 8th interchange.
The city’s planning assumed that Caltrans would likely close the ramps eventually even though they had given them tentative approval to modify the ramps to accommodate truck traffic to a certain point. When the business park portion of the Austin Road project unraveled, the modification work was dropped. The understanding with Caltrans would have required Raymus Expressway interchange to be built when the business park development reached a certain point.
Should the second alternative be built, Manteca would need to build the Raymus Expressway interchange to accommodate growth.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email