Twice over the past 30 years Manteca’s elected leaders have adopted a goal to have a grade separation over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks that slash the city in half.
Then several years the proposals were dropped after it was determined to be too expensive or too intrusive for nearby residents.
On Friday — in a City Council goals workshop conducted at the Manteca Transit Center that could within a decade have ACE passenger service that would add additional blockage of crossings — elected leaders resurrected the idea of pursuing a separated grade crossing of the railroad tracks as a possible city goal.
“It is about moving goods and people as well as public safety,” noted Councilman Gary Singh.
Singh noted that once Altamont Corridor Express service is extended to Modesto it will significantly bump up blocked railroad crossings.
Six ACE train round-trips between Merced and San Jose on double tracks through Manteca are part of the ACE Forward endeavor targeted for a 2025 implantation. That means 12 more trains will pass daily through Manteca’s 10 at-grade crossings. There would be almost 300,000 riders a year boarding trains in downtown Manteca.
The council discussion mentioned no specific details on where they’d like to see a grade separation of whether they preferred a bridge or an underpass.
The original Measure K sales tax plan adopted in the 1980s called for the regional half cent tax to fund a grade separation on Center Street.
It was picked at the time as being a central street in the city as well as the fact the police station was on Center Street as well as a fire station on West Center that has since been replaced with the Union Road location. Although it wasn’t on Center Street at the time, Manteca District Ambulance had bought property along East Center where the headquarters station is now located.
In the mid-1990s a bid to move the grade separation forward ended up having the council derail it.
There were strident protests at the time from nearby residents that didn’t want motorists looking down into their homes and yards. The underpass option was considered too disruptive as it would require an extensive taking of property.
A grade separation was revived several years later, this time on Airport Way. The same general discussion took place about impacts on residents as the Primavera Estates neighborhood was in the planning process. A seperated grade project was discussed at the time as possibly six lanes. An overpass was also mentioned as being intrusive on the privacy of future residents. The idea eventually died.
The only potential separated railroad crossing that has been discussed since then wouldn’t address the issue of traffic congestion in the existing urbanized areas of the city. The envisioned Raymus Express that would go about a mile south of the Austin Road on Highway 99 is proposed with a freeway interchange as well as a bridge across the UP tracks.
It was given a price tag almost a decade ago of nearly $100 million because in order to build it the Highway 99 freeway would have to be shifted to the east and two major bridge structures built — one over the tracks and the freeway interchange.
That location is just north of the anticipated future northern city limits of Ripon.
Lathrop spent around $20 million for its last grade separation on Lathrop.
Mayor Steve DeBrum noted funding is a big issue. If a grade separation does go forward it would likely be a project that growth fees would have to help cover the costs.
The most likely candidates for a grade separation due to available space, location and traffic patterns would either be in Industrial Park Boulevard or Airport Way. Industrial Park Drive would take pressure off two key crossings — Industrial/Spreckels and Main Street that is on top of the transit station where 12 trains a day would be stopping. It also is near a fire station on Powers Avenue and runs by Doctors Hospital as Industrial Park Drive turns into Spreckels Avenue and then Cottage Avenue. It also would serve truck movements from both the Spreckels and Manteca industrial parks.
Its biggest drawback would be any effort to tie it into Moffat Boulevard that parallels the tracks and runs by the train station. There is space to swing Moffat’s intersection with Spreckels farther to the north.
Currently the Industrial/Spreckels crossing is blocked the most by trains as it is double tracked to accommodate a siding where UP will move trains to let another pass through going in the opposite direction.
ACE Forward calls for double tracking the UP corridor to Merced to accommodate its six daily round-trip trains that would connect with high speed rail in Merced.
At the same time, UP expects freight movements along the track corridor to keep growing.
Double tracking would help reduce blocked tracks at the Industrial and Woodward Avenue crossings while trains stopping at the transit station would increase crossing blockage at Main Street.
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