The way Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu sees it, Jack Snyder deserves to have his name grace the Highway 120 Bypass.
“It would be nice to have the highway named after the person who did the work to get it in place,” Cantu said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Cantu shared that he is working with Assemblyman Heath Flora and Caltrans in a bid to get the freeway named after Snyder who passed away last month at age 94.
Typically such an honor requires the approval of the California Legislature and some sponsoring group to pick up the cost of making and installing the signs along the freeway.
Stockton’s civic leaders did a similar thing to honor Ort Lofthus who tirelessly led the charge to get the Highway 4 Crosstown Freeway in place to connect Interstate 5 and Highway 99.
Snyder served 24 years on the Manteca City Council —— the longest in Manteca’s 103-year municipal history. He is also the only “comeback” council member as Snyder got appointed to a council vacancy 12 years after leaving office and then won re-election.
Arguably Snyder’s most high profile achievement that also showcased his uncanny sense of out-of-the-box thinking to get around seemingly insurmountable roadblocks as well as his skill at organizing volunteers was the 120 Bypass.
Up until the mid-1970s, Highway 120 ran through downtown Manteca and followed the route of Yosemite Avenue that passed Airport Way and continued westward toward the San Joaquin River.
This was back in the era when the Northern San Joaquin Valley hadn’t yet become an extension of Bay Area housing and home to 80,000 commuters crossing the Altamont Pass.
However, traffic was an even bigger nightmare. That’s because of Bay Area people traveling to and from the Sierra and the foothills for weekend excisions had turned Highway 120 through Manteca into a rolling parking lot heading east late Friday afternoons and evenings and then head west late Sunday afternoons.
It wasn’t unusual for traffic to back up 5 miles at a time trying to clear what were then two sets of traffic signals in Manteca. While Manteca had only 13,000 residents — 64,000 less than today — it was reported by police and city officials that motorists at intersections without traffic signals would have to wait sometimes an average of five minutes to cross Yosemite Avenue during peak travel times on the weekend.
Building a 120 Bypass of Manteca was not even listed in the 20-year statewide highway project plan. When area representatives in Sacramento told the council the region lacked the political muscle at the Capitol to get a bypass project built any sooner due to the clout of the Los Angeles and San Francisco urban areas, Snyder decided the best move was to get the San Francisco Bay Area on Manteca’s side.
It started with a small army of volunteers who spent Fridays and Sundays walking up to stalled cars filled with Bay Area residents frustrated with the traffic delays and handing them flyers. Essentially the flyers urged them to contact their representatives to get funding for the Bypass to end their wait times trying to get through Manteca.
Snyder and his volunteers blitzed Bay Area newspapers and radio stations to make their case and get support.
In the end political operatives were stunned that Manteca was able to line up coastal urban support for what they had dismissed as a local highway project.
Then after a “hybrid” highway-freeway was put in place with on and off ramps but two lanes with alternating passing lanes, Snyder led the charge to get Caltrans to install barriers down the centerline the length of the Bypass after 32 people died in the first 18 months of it being open.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com