Manteca being on two major freeway corridors is a double-edged sword given that one of them is the 120 Bypass.
Interchanges along the two freeways poise political questions with enormous financial and growth pattern consequences that could create the first significant policy difference between the two most likely individuals to be candidates in what is shaping up to be a pivotal 2022 Manteca mayoral election.
Mayor Ben Cantu has repeatedly inferred he is seeking a second term. Councilman Gary Singh has all but announced his intentions to challenge Cantu.
And even though it might strike a lot of voters as a mundane issue, it is arguably the most defining issue and most expensive challenge facing Manteca as is continues its relentless march toward a city of 125,000 by 2040 if not years sooner.
The interchange issues also ties into Manteca’s developing financial quagmire that has the sewer fund headed for a $16.2 million deficit and the water fund for a $4.7 million deficit by June 30.
That’s because at least $20 million of the growth-related fees collected over the past 10 years or so to fund major road and interchange work was diverted via inter-fund loans that haven’t been paid back to pay for major sewer and water related projects. The only way to do that is to increase sewer and water rates beyond what is needed to bridge the deficit and pay for running and maintaining the two systems going forward.
What Manteca ends up doing with its interchanges could also have a major impact on Ripon. That’s because the original plan for Manteca to build Raymus Parkway with a Highway 99 interchange would have aligned with connecting Olive Avenue with the freeway and would have accessed a large area east of Highway 99 and south of Graves Road that is in the Ripon sphere of influence for future growth.
Business parks planned
in Manteca will impact
traffic on Bypass & 99
The 120 Bypass freeway segment between Interstate 5 and Highway 99 draws goods and commuters from along California’s so-called “Main Street” — the 99 corridor with major population centers doubling as agricultural hubs — and funnels them into heart of the booming Bay Area market.
Manteca is a Johnny Come Lately player to the South County’s emergence as the primary distribution center for the 18 million consumer strong regional market.
Manteca is working to leverage the 120 Bypass — a well as segments of Highway 99 that pass through the city — to lure employment centers that favor strategic freeway locations in proximity to key rail lines as well as access to moving goods by air.
That includes additional business park/distribution center development along the Airport Way corridor, southeast Manteca along Austin Road and areas not yet annexed that are north of the city along Roth Road and French Camp Road.
Interchanges are clearly growth inducing given Manteca’s location. As such, state policy put in place long ago concentrates limited funding on keeping freeway corridors at their best operational peaks. That makes the investment of state money for completely new interchanges such as the one the city keeps moving closer to breaking ground on at McKinley Avenue long the 120 Bypass essentially next to impossible to obtain.
Pair of Highway 99
cost in excess of $140B
Interchanges are not cheap to build. The costs can easily go as high as $40 million or more for a functional and traditional cloverleaf freeway interchange built from scratch to well in excess of $100 million for a new interchange that also involves the intersecting road to clear railroad tracks and the need to shift a freeway running parallel to the tracks to accommodate ramps.
Those cost estimates were floated more than six years ago for two interchanges along Highway 99 that are clearly growth inducing. They are Roth Road midway between French Camp Road and Lathrop Road as well as Raymus Parkway between Austin Road and Jack Tone Road.
Although most people might go into yawning mood, the debate regarding the need for the two interchanges is simply more than policy wonk planning.
The outcome has significant implications for existing and future residents. It could:
*determine how quickly and easily they can access freeway.
*be a costly endeavor.
*delay other long-awaited road improvements that motorists have been forced to deal with for years including widening a segment of Louise Avenue east of Main Street and the widening of the Louise Avenue overcrossing.
Growth under law can only be assigned the cost of such interchanges that they generate the need for. If a nexus study determines that is 60 percent, as an example, Manteca would have to find funds to pay for the remaining 40 percent.
There are three policy issues that all includes funding considerations that need to be addressed:
*programming interchange upgrades on the 120 Bypass at Main Street and Airport Way and plugging them into fees being assessed on new growth.
*determining how the city will pay for widening the replacement Austin Road overcrossing from two to four lanes. The state is paying for the replacement two lanes but under state policy given traffic volume doesn’t currently justify four lanes, adding them are considered growth inducing and therefore on the city’s dime. The city opted to go ahead with the two lanes to avoid having to fund a bridge widening at a higher cost in the future.
*deciding whether the Raymus Parkway or Roth Road even need interchanges with Highway 99.
How Singh & Cantu agree
Both Singh and Cantu agree that the interchanges at Main Street and Airport Way need to be upgraded.
That would mean the inclusion for such efforts to be included in the Public Facilities Implementation Plan (PFIP) fee structure.
Both the Raymus and Roth Road interchanges are part of an abstract traffic flow plan for the city. They are both included in the general plan update that serves as the blueprint for growth that is currently being update.
Where the two potential
2022 mayoral hopefuls disagree
Four years ago the council dropped both Roth and Raymus from projects that the PFIP was being adjusted to cover citing them as being too expensive and therefore impractical.
Cantu disagrees with that move.
The mayor believes Manteca can ill afford not to have both interchanges. If not they are not pursued he foresees Manteca repeating traffic woes of the past by allowing development with what he calls an “incomplete” road system,
Cantu falls back on his 30 years as a City of Manteca planner to back up his assertions. He noted elected leaders over the years have failed to put in placed adequate fees to have growth pay its own way including major road and interchange projects.
The mayor believes if the current council declines to add Roth Road and Raymus Parkway interchanges back into the PFIP fee that is collected then future councils will be faced with angry constituents irked about traffic congestion.
Singh sees the interchange issue differently.
He point out that the traffic analysis that the general plan is based on was done before the State of California dropped a gift of sorts in Manteca’s lap — the 120 Bypass/Highway 99 interchange work on target to break ground later this year or early 2022.
The $131.4 million three-phase project is designed to improve traffic flow and safety on both the 120 Bypass and Highway 99. In order to do that, the Austin Road interchange built in 1955 has to be removed in order to get more traffic lanes on Highway 99.
That led to a design with braided ramps that would accommodate large volumes truck and vehicular traffic.
The first phase includes extending Austin Road over the railroad tracks and reconfiguring nearby surface street movements with a new 90-degree railroad crossing and a realignment of Woodward Avenue to connect with Austin Road and a connector road to Moffat.
Singh believes the Austin Road interchange as now designed by Caltrans could effectively handle traffic from future southeast Manteca growth making a Raymus interchange an expensive — and questionable — need.
As far as Roth Road is concerned, Singh points to two new interchanges at French Camp Road and Lathrop Road that went online in the last eight years courtesy of a $400 million plus Caltrans widening of the Highway 99 corridor from Yosemite Avenue to Arch Road.
Singh said once Roth Road reaches the Frontage Road, drivers would have the option to head north to French Camp Road or south to Lathrop Road.
Singh said there may come a point when growth starts occurring east of Highway 99 that Roth Road may need to be extended across the freeway but with no on or off ramps which would significantly reduce the cost of such an overcrossing.
The councilman also noted Caltrans would frown on adding another interchange given French Camp Road and Lathrop Road are within two miles of each other.
Singh’s preference after McKinley Avenue is fully funded and the city has a plan in place to cover its financial commitment to the Austin Road replacement bridge widening is for the city to upgrade the 120 Bypass interchanges at Airport Way and Main Street.
“They (the 120 Bypass interchanges) will have the most impact of people on Manteca,” Singh noted.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org