The long promised Union Road diverging diamond interchange on the 120 Bypass may be tabled due to a dispute with PG&E and City Council concerns that better access to the Great Wolf resort makes moving forward with the McKinley Avenue interchange first a more pressing priority.
No formal action was taken Tuesday but it was clear from comments made by at least two council members — Gary Singh and Debby Moorhead — that getting the interchange in that would essentially serve Great Wolf and open up southwest Manteca to the development of almost 4,000 more homes already approved by the council was a higher priority than upgrading the existing interchange that serves established areas of Manteca as well as new subdivisions that are now breaking ground. None of the other three council members piped in on the discussion regarding how to prioritize interchange work.
Staff said they were looking for council direction and will come back with a proposal that could possibly drop the Union Road work to the third position among three pending interchange projects.
Singh pointed out that Airport Way currently has congestion issues. It is not clear whether the McKinley Avenue interchange would relieve existing congestion given it feeds into a rural two-lane road that is even narrower than the narrowest sections of Airport Way. McKinley Avenue accesses no existing City of Manteca neighborhoods. It would however bode well for developers of Oakwood Landing, Trails of Manteca, Terra Ranch, and Oakwood Trails that altogether have gotten the OK to build 3,908 homes south and southwest of the future McKinley and 120 Bypass interchange. That has the potential of generating in excess of 12,000 more residents or roughly four fifths the current population of the City of Ripon.
For existing residents to get back to the Airport Way corridor north of the 120 Bypass when McKinley Avenue is built they’d have to either use Daniels Street or cross two railroad tracks to use Yosemite Avenue. South of the 120 Bypass would require traveling to Woodward Avenue as no funding is in place to build the missing segment of Atherton Drive between Airport Way and McKinley.
In addition traffic studies for the Great Wolf did not require the McKinley Avenue interchange to be in place to serve the 500-room hotel now being built. It will be needed, though, if Great Wolf wants to add 250 to 300 more rooms.
The traffic study also noted the bulk of Great Wolf guests would arrive and depart at times of the day when congestion is not a major issue.
The Union Road work is being stalled by four large power poles PG&E needs to relocate. PG&E is insisting the $4 million be shared 50/50 between the utility and the City of Manteca/Caltrans. Until such a deal is in writing that the work will be paid, PG&E will not do the work. Caltrans is refusing to agree as it would set a precedent for other freeway projects
Should the council decide to pull the plug on the $31.5 million Union Road project that also includes Measure K funds for a bike bridge and pedestrian crossing that would presumably be lost by such an action, the city would be forced to pay damages to the contractor since the bid has already been awarded.
The discussion by council members to change interchange priorities mid-stream came after staff said there was a shortfall in funding for the McKinkley interchange after $4.4 million in growth fees was shifted from that project to construct the Atherton Drive gap between Union Road and Sparrowhawk Drive east of Airport Way. That section of Airport Way will open in the coming weeks.
Staff had indicated there was a strong possibility the San Joaquin Council of Governments would advance the money needed interest free to complete the McKinley interchange from Measure K sales tax receipts.
At the same time several council members said they prefer making the replacement bridge for the new Austin Road overcrossing in connection with the Highway 99/120 Bypass four lanes instead of two lanes.
The two lane replacement structure costing $12 million is included in the $60 million Caltrans funding for the first phase of the three part solution for the 120/99 and Austin Road solution that ultimately will cost $160 million to complete.
A four-lane bridge would cost $18 million to build when construction of the project starts in April of 2021. The additional $6 million would be on the city’s dime.
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