Motorists could have a hassle-free trip down Lathrop Road by Christmas.
Last week Lathrop Civil Engineer Michael King informed the city council that the bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks along Lathrop Road could be opened to traffic as soon as December if work continues to progress at the current rate.
The grade separation project will be the second for Lathrop Road. It will eliminate the long waits caused by railroad trains switching tracks at local depots – a longtime complaint from residents that coexisted alongside a crucial Central Valley stop for freight cars making their way to points throughout the western United States.
According to King, the bulk of the work on the bridge – which will carry traffic heading west right up to the edge of the Woodfield Estates subdivision – has already been completed and only minor work would need to be done in the coming months to get it ready for traffic. The realignment of the existing roadway, he said, still needs to be completed and other technical aspects like a drainage basin and the layout of existing surface streets for nearby residential and commercial businesses wouldn’t begin until traffic began flowing up and across.
Once it’s open, Lathrop Road would provide a direct route from Interstate 5 to Highway 99 without any exposure to railroad tracks – making it a perfect thruway for truck traffic. The number of tractor-trailers on the road is expected to increase now that CenterPoint Development has opened up part of an envisioned massive business park that already contains a commercial-grade laundry facility. The project was a point of contention between Lathrop and Manteca when it was first proposed, but those details have since been ironed out.
The $16.8 million project is receiving more than $13 million in funding from a consortium that includes the San Joaquin Council of Governments, Proposition 1B funds and existing railroad funds. Cost estimates have been almost precise since work began with only $50,000 worth of change orders actually issued out of a budget of more than $1.6 million.
But something as new and as big as the bridge won’t come without at least some hassle.
Lathrop Road where it intersects with Woodfield Avemue will be closed for the weekend of Nov. 7 starting that Friday, and McKinley Avenue will be closed from Nov. 10 through Nov. 17 to allow for the recirculation of existing traffic patterns.
Getting that information out to the public, however, hasn’t been easy.
King heard tough words form the council about the lack of effort by the engineering firm’s public relation’s arm that was paid specifically to maintain a website and distribute information that would have kept the public apprised of what was going on at the site. Vice Mayor Omar Ornelas said that hasn’t happened, and when paying $20,000, it should.
“The project website is really bad. The information is irrelevant to why we are here now,” Ornelas said. “The information that is on there goes back to Jan. or Feb. and when we’re talking about budgeting $20,000, that’s a lot of money and I think the work is not very good – it’s terrible actually.
“We need to make our expectations clear so that the public can get its money’s worth.”