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Lathrop/99 interchange is front runner
Manteca leaders asked to support latest proposal
A study now shows a new interchange at Lathrop Road and Highway 99 as the preferable alternative for the Highway 99 widening project. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Caltrans’ preferred alternative for the new north Manteca interchange on Highway 99 would replace the existing Lathrop Road configuration and close the partial interchange at North Main Street.

A hearing on the environmental report for the proposed interchange is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 1.

At least one Manteca area resident – Bill Goodwin – wants the Manteca City Council to throw its collective support behind that alternative in advance of the hearing.

Goodwin was among those who strenuously opposed any plan that extends Northgate Drive into a swooping curve crossing Highway 99 and heading north to connect with Lathrop Road as the new interchange. Goodwin, a former Manteca Unified School District board member, was concerned about the amount of traffic that would be directed down Northgate Drive past East Union High and Neil Hafley School.

Even more opposed extending Northgate Drive straight across the freeway to connect with Southland Road to create an interchange. They worried about Southland Road being turned into a major street and destroying the rural character of that neighborhood as well as areas along nearby county roads.

The road widening project that starts in 2012 between the Highway 120 Bypass and Arch Road requires eliminating one of the interchanges at Lathrop and Main built in 1955 as they are too close together and building a new one to accommodate more traffic and today’s safety standards.

Lathrop Road originally was not advanced as a viable alternative because land acquisition and design could easily add $10 to $12 million to the cost of the replacement interchange project.

Caltrans must bring the entire freeway widening from Yosemite Avenue in Manteca to the Cross-town Freeway in Stockton under budget in order to make it work with Proposition 1A bond money. The directive was for minimum land acquisition costs as not to make the project expensive or slow down the construction timeline.

If Manteca’s leaders favor the Lathrop Road alternative, they were told last year that they must be willing to cover any extra costs that may occur.  An independent panel examining the Lathrop Road interchange proposal has concluded there could be significant savings to bring the project within budget. Those cost-savings options are currently being reviewed for feasibility with the final answer expected by years’ end.

Preliminary thinking by city staff last fall indicated:

• if there is a shortfall, redevelopment agency funds could be used to bridge the gap with some additional help from the Measure K sales transit project tax.

• the new Lathrop Road alternative would enhance the development potential of the Delta Community College’s land north on the northwest corner of Lathrop Road and Highway 99. Preliminary studies show the proposed 350,000 square feet of commercial could generate 700 jobs.

• if Caltrans is willing to swap a trade — Manteca guaranteeing $10 million for possible cost overruns — there are three to four acres where the existing flyover for Main Street is now located that could allow the redevelopment agency to recoup some of the money they put up with  a future development project.

The Lathrop Road option also would:

• cement Main Street as a key commercial corridor giving it direct freeway access in the north at Highway 99 and in the south at the Highway 120 Bypass. The Lathrop Road interchange design has southbound off ramps feeding directly into Main Street.

• not create the potential for truck and other traffic is to take short cuts through neighborhoods to reach Highway 99.

• would not increase traffic on street used by students walking to and from school.
• would not disrupt the country residential character of Southland Road.

• allow the Rossi project between Highway 99 and the Northgate Drive/Main Street intersection with its medical office complex, retail, and senior citizens housing to proceed.

• allow easier access for truck traffic from existing and future business parks and distribution centers along the Airport Way corridor.