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Interchanges, et al, are not under Manteca’s control; Caltrans District. 10 has regional problem
fence homeless
Caltrans in February 2020 installed wrought iron fencing along potions of state property along the 120 Bypass near Moffat Boulevard in bid to keep tab keep the homeless from coming back again over and over.

Why — the Manteca City Council was asked Tuesday — doesn’t the city do something about the homeless encampments multiplying around the Main Street and 120 Bypass interchange?

The answer is a bit complicated.

First, and foremost, the area in question is under control of Caltrans, and not the city’s jurisdiction.

That said, the city — just like every other city in Caltrans District 10 that covers Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne counties that have homeless issues in highway and freeway rights-of-way — works with the state agency to addresses issues.

It basically means alerting Caltrans to the problem of illegal encampments when they pop up.

It is the same process the public can use to report homeless issues on the District 10 Caltrans website.

Caltrans, just like cities, has to go through the legally required process of posting encampments before they can be cleaned up away.

The courts made that requirement to give the homeless the opportunity to move and take their belongings elsewhere.

Caltrans has done just that.

The encampment will be cleaned up within the next week or so.

But as Councilman Dave Breitenbucher pointed it, the homeless can simply move elsewhere, set up illegal encampments again in Caltrans right-of-way, and start the process  all over again.

The city’s homeless outreach effort does go to illegal encampments in Caltrans right-of-way to advise those there of services available at 555 Industrial Park Drive in Manteca. The services includes the ability to encamp there.

But, as the councilman noted, the volunteers and city can only make homeless aware of the services but can’t legally force them to move due to court decisions and state laws.

To give you an idea of what Caltrans is up against, the state agency clears 1,200 plus encampments yearly from freeway right-of way.

Illegal encampments along Highway 99 and the 120 Bypass in Manteca are just part of huge statewide problem Caltrans works to address legally.

That’s because freeway right-of-way, underpasses and other state highway system components are popular locations for homeless encampments.

In a 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2022,  Caltrans statewide cleared an average of 100 encampments per month with a total of 1,262 cleared sites, removing 1,213 tons of trash – enough to fill 22 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Information posted on the governor’s official website notes it was the result of prioritizing the 100 most high-profile encampment sites on state land to clear.

The vast majority is land Caltrans is responsible to maintain.

During the 12-month period, Caltrans closed 121 encampments and collected more than 11,192 cubic yards of trash throughout the Central Valley between Butte County in the north and Kern County to the south.

This includes 40 encampments in Sacramento County in which the department collected a total of more than 3,078 cubic yards of trash.

How the Caltrans

homeless encampment

enforcement works


 Caltrans is responsible for the state’s transportation network, including protecting and maintaining the highway infrastructure.

 In situations where people experiencing homelessness are sheltering along the state right-of-way, Caltrans assesses the encampment site for immediate threats to safety and essential infrastructure.

Threats may include modifications to structures that increase the risk of collapse; encampments that physically block traffic or pathways and put people in the encampments, the traveling public, and workers at risk of imminent danger; and the high probability of fires that can cause serious damage to highway infrastructure like overpasses that may result in deaths or serious injury to encamped individuals, the traveling public, and nearby residents.   

 When Caltrans prepares to remove an encampment that presents a threat to infrastructure or people, Caltrans’ Encampment Coordinators work to notify social service providers of the estimated closure time and date.

That allows those providers to conduct outreach to connect people experiencing homelessness with essential services and available shelter/housing options.

Caltrans also provides a notice posted at encampment sites at least 48 hours in advance of any encampment removal, depending on location and risk.

People experiencing homelessness are asked to take their belongings and are notified that personal belongings of apparent value left behind will be brought to a nearby Caltrans maintenance yard for storage and later retrieval.  

While wrought iron fencing has been used in some areas such in Manteca, Tracy, and Stockton to prevent the re-encampment on the state right-of-way, it is not always the best solution.

Caltrans partners with nonprofits and local government agencies that are funded, trained, and equipped to help people encamping on the state right-of-way to find alternative placement for shelter and/or housing. 

Caltrans in fiscal year 2017 estimated that the cleanup bill reached $10.04 million.

That year crews encountered about 7,000 homeless camps on rights of way of the state’s 254 highways. The cleanup amount was 34.2 percent higher than the previous year of 2016and involved all 12 Caltrans regional districts. 


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email