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Interchange flip flop?
Manteca may proceed with McKinley/120 design
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The McKinley Avenue interchange at the 120 Bypass is back on the radar.

Just a month after voting to tell the federal government thanks but no thanks for $2.8 million to proceed with design work for the interchange, the Manteca City Council could possibly change its collective mind.

Mayor Willie Weatherford is asking the council Tuesday to reconsider its actions of Oct. 18 to reject a no-cost cooperative agreement with Caltrans to provide oversight and independent quality assurance for design work that would be done by Rajappan & Meyer Consulting. That vote was expected to set in motion the return of $2.8 million in federal funds to Uncle Sam that Richard Pombo helped obtain in 2005 when he was still in Congress. The action would also have eliminated the need for the consultant’s services.

The consultant’s $1.5 million fee would be covered by the federal funds with money left over to buy any needed right-of-way.

The council unanimously backed a move by Councilman Vince Hernandez to stop the project. The reason was simple. Hernandez thought the project was moving forward for all of the wrong reasons believing staff advanced it to avoid losing the federal funds that must be funding an actual project that is under way within the next few weeks.

Hernandez said he had a problem with the “use it or lose it mentality.”

“It is almost like we are doing this for the wrong reason,” Hernandez said at the Oct. 18 meeting.

Councilman John Harris helped add momentum to Hernandez’ position by noting the city had four other interchange projects it was juggling and had not identified where funding would come from to make those a reality let alone the actual construction cost of the proposed McKinley and 120 interchange. Harris added that the city’s development patterns have changed as there is no longer plan for a major business park to the south of the interchange. Instead, there would be a smaller employment center surrounded by high density housing and a continuation of housing development patterns now in place south of the 120 Bypass.

It was Weatherford, who made the motion to ditch the design work on Oct. 18. He added to the debate by questioning at one point whether McKinley was the appropriate location for the interchange at all and whether Yosemite Avenue to the west would have made more sense.

The mayor also alluded to the fact Lathrop would benefit significantly from the interchange yet Lathrop failed to include funding mandates for nearby proposed development within their city limits even though they have demanded similar concession from Manteca at interchange work elsewhere.

Manteca and Lathrop are presently suing each other over interchange funding.

It was made clear, though, on Oct. 18 that the decision did not pull the plug on the interchange in its entirety. Since it was in the city’s traffic plan adpoted six months prior as a key element it could be advanced at some time in the future.

The future apparently is now.

Weatherford has been provided with additional information that shows an interchange at Yosemite Avenue would be much more costly than proceeding with an interchange at McKinley.

The council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.