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Gap funding for Atherton still in limbo
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The Atherton Drive gap closure between Union Road and Airport Way that some South Manteca residents hope will ease traffic on Woodward Avenue has been ready to go forward when it comes to construction plans and environmental clearance for more than three years.
The City Council in April 2013 approved the negative environmental impact document for the extension of Atherton Drive covering 4,100 feet from Union Road to a point just east of Sparrowhawk Drive.
City staff at that time noted once the segment between Union Road and Airport Way was completed sometime in early 2014, pressure would 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 $2.6 million project was even funded in the 2014-2015 budget.
But that was before the growth fees set aside for the gap closure was diverted to help fund improvements to the Austin Road/Highway 99 interchange in anticipation of the employment center of the 1,049-acre Austin Road moving forward.
The city approve the Austin Road project that envisions adding homes for 10,200 more residents, adding 3.5 million square feet of general commercial or about 26 times the square footage of the Manteca Costco store, and generating 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 Speckles Avenue. But at some point during efforts to get a development agreement in place, the partnership for the project hit the rocks.
But not until after the City Council awarded contracts for $2.4 million worth of work tied to Austin Road Business Park  traffic needs at the freeway ramps and along Moffat Boulevard to George Reed Inc. and Mendoza & Associates. When it was clear Austin Road Business Park wasn’t moving forward in the near future, The City Council moved to terminate the contracts in November of 2015.
After the city and contractors agreed upon payment for what work had been done — almost all construction planning related — and what was owed paid, the money earmarked for Austin Road work was earmarked to be returned to the Atherton Drive project.
Nine months later that has yet to happen.
The project is now jockeying for staff’s attention with major interchange initiatives at Union Road and McKinley Avenue on the 120 Bypass.
Staff told the City Council in June during budget hearings that the Atherton Drive gap project would reappear in the five-year capital improvement plan and work move forward once that was owed on the terminated contracts was paid.