The 12-cent a gallon gas tax adopted by the California Legislature is critical to the effort to fund a fix for the Highway 99/120 Bypass interchange that suffers almost daily from massive traffic back-ups that in turn has made a 1.5-mile stretch of the eastbound Bypass the deadliest stretch of freeway in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum said Caltrans has informed the San Joaquin Council of Governments without the gas tax the fix for the interchange would be pushed back into the mid to late 2030s at the earliest.
Regional leaders fear that if the repeal of the November measure that added 12 cents to a gallon of gas and 20 cents to a gallon of diesel fuel as well as upped vehicle registration $25 to $175 a year ends up qualifying for the Nov. 6 ballot and is passed, all of their efforts to date to get a solution in place to reduce congestion, enhance the movement of goods, and address the high accident rare will be for naught.
Backers of the repeal effort say they submitted more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The Secretary of State’s office is in the process of verifying the signatures.
A statewide poll by the University of Southern California and Los Angeles Times in late May showed 51 percent of likely voters favor repealing the measure while 38 percent would vote to keep the tax in place.
Up until two years ago, the state did not have any plans in place to address the 120 Bypass/99 interchange through at least 2040.
An intense effort to push for a solution started two years ago with Manteca taking the lead and DeBrum networking with elected officials through the region at the county and city levels was able to get Caltrans to start planning for work to get started on a Bypass solution by 2022.
Because it was never programed as a state road project, no funding was committed to the work. Senate Bill 1 adopted in November opened the door for funding the $81.6 million solution that also includes major changes to the Austin Road interchange.
What the proposed
for $81.M includes
To relieve the back-up on the eastbound 120 Bypass as it squeezes down to one lane to reach Highway 99 southbound is not as simple as adding another lane. The plan requires braided ramps, so-called because they employ short connectors from one ramp to reach another similar to what you encounter driving the Interstate 680/580 interchange in Pleasanton.
*It would double the capacity to handle eastbound 120 Bypass traffic heading south on Highway 99 toward Modesto.
*It would double the capacity to handle northbound Highway 99 traffic heading west on the 120 Bypass toward Main Street.
*It would have the exit lane for Austin Road for traffic traveling east on the 120 Bypass start where the southbound Highway 99 transition lane now starts and then parallel the transition land and Highway 99 before swinging to the southwest to intersect Moffat. It would then continue as a two-lane road and swing back heading east to T-intersect with Austin Road.
*It would have the exit lane for Austin Road for southbound Highway 99 traffic start just past the crossover bridge for the 99 to 120 Bypass westbound and 120 Bypass to Highway 99. That ramp would then become a bridge over the 120-99 transition lanes before joining the Austin Road exit ramp that starts on the 120 Bypass to create a two-lane ramp as it continues paralleling the 99 freeway,
*It widens the 120 Bypass from a point west of Main Street to the Highway 99 interchange to three lanes in each direction. That will also require the 120 Bypass bridges over Van Ryn Avenue as well as Moffat Boulevard and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to be widened to three lanes in each direction as well.
*It would create a new Austin Road northbound on-ramp at a T-intersection with the ramp first heading to the southeast and curving back under the freeway. It will parallel the northbound Highway 99 freeways and part of the transition ramp from northbound 99 to the westbound 120 Bypass until a point where traffic originating on Austin Road that wants to head to the 120 Bypass can do so at a braid connecting it to the northbound 99 to westbound 120 Bypass. Traffic from Austin Road wanting to head north on Highway 99 would continue on the Austin Road onramp and merge with the freeway north of the where the transition ramp from the eastbound 120 Bypass merges with northbound Highway 99.
*Moffat Boulevard would no longer connect directly to Austin Road. There would, however, still be an onramp to southbound Highway 99 that would be accessed from a connector road to Austin Road.
*A new off ramp would be built from northbound 99 to Austin Road
*The Frontage Road that intersects with Austin Road would be shifted to the east.
*Highway 99 southbound from the 120 Bypass would be widened from four to five lanes.
*Highway 99 northbound from Austin to the 120 Bypass would be widened from four to five lanes.
*Highway 99 to a point south of Austin Road would be widened from six to eight lanes of traffic and shifted to the east to avoid the Union Pacific right-of-way that will be double tracked to accommodate extending Altamont Corridor Express service into Ceres by 2023.
*The Austin Road bridge across Highway 99 would also be extended across the railroad tracks to eliminate an at grade track crossing much like was done with Jack Tone Road in Ripon.
*Austin Road across Highway 99 will be widened from two lanes to four lanes and include left turn pockets much like the new Lathrop Road bridge that’s part of the Highway 99 interchange.
*Woodward Avenue would no longer connect with Moffat due to the need to move the railroad crossing further south for the off ramp traffic to reach Austin Road.