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50 daily train trips expected to reach 130 trains in decade or so
A southbound freight train carrying containers that are transferred to and from trucks at the Union Pacific intermodal facility between Manteca and Lathrop nears the Louise Avenue railroad crossing. - photo by DENNIS WYATT

Manteca’s move to become a bigger player in snaring employment centers won’t come without a price.

And it’ll arguably be a bigger price than almost every other Northern San Joaquin Valley community will pay.

With the city growing by an average of 650 new housing units a year with a pool of around 8,000 potential homes via approved subdivisions and apartment complexes, there have been grumblings for years the city isn’t doing enough to attract jobs. At the same time growing traffic on surface streets as well as increasing congestion on key commute routes such as Interstate 5, Highway 99 and Interstate 205 as well as the deadly 120 Bypass corridor that leads the region for freeway deaths and fatalities is elevating frustrations.

Truck traffic is critical for the operation of employment centers that many have  been hammering the city to pursue. As Manteca pushes for more jobs — perennially among the top issues in council election campaigns since the 1970s — it will require luring more business parks which in turns means more truck traffic.

But the one thing that makes the price of growth in Manteca even higher are two things considered key to giving Manteca the edge to lure more business park-style jobs and ultimately employment centers not as reliant on truck movements  — major expansion of the Union Pacific Railroad intermodal truck to train facility sandwiched between Manteca and Lathrop as well as expansion of Altamont Corridor Express service south to Ceres and to a lesser degree the coming Valley Link to BART service in Pleasanton/Dublin.

There are currently 50 trains a day using the railroad lines that pass through Manteca either through the center of the city where there are 10 at-grade crossings from Austin Road to Airport Way or along the city’s western border where there are 5 crossings including 4 at grade between Roth Road and McKinley Avenue.

The extension of ACE service and approved expansion of the UP intermodal service is expected to increase the number of trains passing through Manteca to 130 a day. Much of that will be tied to movements of truck trailers at the UP facility on Roth Road. Current projects by the railroad call for the facility to go from 200,000 container movements a year to 700,000 annually.

That alone will nearly quadruple truck movements with the bulk going through Lathrop to reach Interstate 5.

That said Manteca’s ace that no other 209 city holds except for Stockton and Lathrop is its extremely close vicinity to not just one but two major intermodal facilities. The other is some 16 miles northeast of Manteca where Santa Fe Railroad operates a facility. That means firms such as Medline — the nation’s largest privately held manufacturer of medical supplies that’s preparing to open a 585,000-square-foot distribution center off  Louise Avenue behind Amazon Prime and adjacent to the Manteca Unified School District office complex — that locate in Manteca will have extremely short truck movements to move goods cross country by rail. Given how the world of commerce has switched to on-time deliveries meaning inventories at retailers as well as manufacturers are kept at a minimum, anything that can reduce the travel time of goods is seen as a competitive edge as well as a way to reduce costs.

In addition tenants in business parks have to reach freeways meaning trucks will have to use surface streets as they do now to reach Spreckels Park and Manteca Industrial Park via Yosemite Avenue, Spreckels Avenue, Industrial Park Drive, and South Main Street.

There also have been a number of trucks already using Lathrop Road — United Parcel, Raley’s Save Mart, and others — to reach facilities in Lathrop from Highway 99 instead of using the problematic 120 Bypass. In addition business parks being developed along Airport Way need to have trick movements to and from freeways.

The South County has emerged as the prime distribution center for goods in the Northern California Megaregion that includes Sacramento, San Jose, San Francisco and surrounding communities. The megaregion has nearly 18 million consumers that buy a lot of goods.

City leaders have noted the San Joaquin Partnership — a private-public venture dedicated to snaring employers for San Joaquin County and its cities as well as retaining existing firms — has identified 16,000 acres of vacant industrial land throughout the county. Manteca sites have roughly 544 acres. That’s less than 5 percent of the acres countywide putting Manteca just ahead of Ripon and Escalon.

Possible areas the city has identified to accommodate business park development are:

237 acres currently set aside for 1,014 homes on the southwest corner of Airport Way and Louise Avenue where a developer has expressed interest in building a business park.

Infill in the Manteca Industrial Park and two undeveloped parcels on the Spreckels Business Park.

The agriculture area that is in the county and surrounded by the city that flanks Industrial Park Drive between the railroad tracks and the Manteca Industrial Park and abuts against the 120 Bypass.

Industrial zoned land in the approved 1,049-acre multi-use Austin Road Business Park in southeast Manteca that has stalled in terms of moving forward.

Undeveloped land along Moffat Boulevard south of the 120 Bypass.

The potential of annexing 100 acres north of Roth Road as well as land east of Airport Way, north of Lovelace Road, west of Union Road, and south of French Camp Road to develop for business parks.

On the 15 to 25 year horizon, the Future Land Use Subcommittee of the council appointed Economic Development Committee has suggested land east of Austin Road, north of Northland Road, west of Prescott Road up to French Camp Road could be used to develop business parks.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email