Is the Raymus Expressway — the envisioned controversial connecting arterial to connect Highway 99 with the 120 Bypass through older and emerging neighborhoods in south Manteca — dead?
Mayor Ben Cantu at Tuesday’s council meeting implied that it is because the city has approved a subdivision without setting aside the necessary right of way for the road.
And Cantu laid the blame at the feet of the previous City Council led by former Mayor Steve DeBrum who he defeated on November 2018.
“This community is committed to tolerating congestion in massive amounts south of 120 simply because — and I hate to say this — simply because there was not the political will as the council, staff allowed developers to dictate the future of this community,” Cantu said during the council meeting.
Cantu wants the city to negotiate with the developer whose project is already underway to get the right of way secured.
Contacted on Thursday, former Councilman Mike Morowit said Cantu’s characterization of the previous City Council’s action on establishing a Raymus Expressway as being detrimental to existing and future residents was way off-base.
The previous council never killed off the expressway per se — just spending $120 million they didn’t have to connect it to Highway 99 which would require crossing railroad tracks and shifting the freeway to the east — but left it to T-intersect into the southern extension of Atherton Drive. Morowit said that decision would not create massive traffic congestion as Cantu claims.
“It made sense when it (the expressway) was supposed to be a truck route, but just having residential traffic won’t be that bad,” Morowit said.
Originally a massive industrial/business park had been planned for southeast Manteca that would have generated major truck traffic. Plans for that business park were yanked.
Not connecting Raymus Expressway
directly toHighway 99 would avoid dumping
Bypass shortcut traffic into neighborhoods
Morowit said not having the Raymus Expressway running between the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 means another shortcut as Woodward Avenue has become for commuters heading home to Stanislaus County to avoid congestion on the 120 Bypass won’t be created through Manteca neighborhoods.
He also noted that the general area of alignment that the staff had talked about is near how far south the city can develop due to areas that historically flood.
Morowit said given most commuters head to the Bay Area, Tracy or Lathrop that it was doubtful people would drive south to reach an expressway that would then take them to the northwest to reach an interchange on the 120 Bypass when they could drive a shorter distance and head directly north to interchanges at Airport Way, Union Road and Main Street that are all a mile apart.
As it stands now based on physical limitations dictated by the floodplain and the City of Ripon sphere of influence, the farthest a home in the future with the city south of the 120 Bypass will be from the freeway will be no more than 2 ½ miles or the same distance one travels from Lathrop Road in north Manteca to reach the 120 Bypass. Commuters heading north to the Bypass also would not have train tracks to deal with and would have less cross arterials meaning traffic would likely flow better reaching the freeway from the south than from the north.
Morowit said the added dynamic of Atherton Express that is being extended south from Woodward Avenue and parallels the Bypass and will ultimately T-intersect into McKinley Avenue and the new interchange being built was added after the city first called for an expressway when Cantu worked in the community development department as well as before plans for the Austin Road Business Park surfaced.
The previous council, as Morowit pointed out, never instructed staff not to set aside right of way for a possible Raymus Expressway alignment. He pointed to the 1,301-home Griffin Park residential development that the previous council made the initial approvals for as having a path for the expressway included. The only directive was to take the Raymus Expressway interchange with Highway 99 out of the Public Facilities Fee Plan along with an interchange at Roth Road and Highway 99.
That decision came after Caltrans rolled out its three phased plan for a new Highway 99/120 Bypass/Austin Road upgrade to address traffic congestion and safety issues. The bulk of the Austin Road upgrades except for additional lanes on the new bridge to accommodate growth will be on Caltrans dime as opposed to the $120 million tab for the Raymus Expressway/Highway 99 interchange that would have been on the back of Manteca taxpayers.
Cantu favors expressway
loop of Manteca to plan
for future city growth
Cantu, in making his dissatisfaction known Tuesday, struck a note he has played repeatedly that “planning is for the future and not the people already here.”
During his 30 year tenure as a city planner as well as his vocal input in reshaping the city’s growth plan for the next 10 years, Cantu has led the charge for a quasi-loop road to go from McKinley Avenue and the 120 Bypass, south and then east to Highway 99, then north at some point east of Austin Road and back to Highway 99 with a connection to Roth Road.
The city has never adopted an alignment for the Raymus Expressway but instead has identified broad corridors as each time the alignment has been brought up in the past 15 years it has triggered negative feedback from existing residents who didn’t want it to go through the our properties or to alter their semi-rural neighborhood.
It is that negative feedback that Cantu implies prompted the previous council to essentially cower and abdicate what he believes is sound planning for the future.
Complicating the alignment discussions is the need to place a cross or dry levee in southwest Manteca for 200-year flood protection. The placement of the levee — whose exact location also has not been officially delineated by elected leaders — dictates where the expressway could end up as it has to be on the north side that is protected against flooding.
Given Cantu’s comments came up during a part of the agenda where council members share thoughts about items not on the agenda, no action could be taken.
Cantu did not say one way or the other whether he’ll bring the matter before the council at a future date to see if negotiations can be conducted with the developer in question that has a project approved without leaving right of way for the alignment to allow the city to secure the land needed.
At the same time, however, there has never been a formal alignment of the expressway established besides just west of Main Street in Griffin Park and to a point south of Woodward Avenue near McKinley Avenue.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com