Work on establishing the alignment of a dry levee in southwest Manteca is being separated from work on plotting a new alignment for the contentious Raymus Expressway.
The Manteca City Council Tuesday unanimously directed staff to renegotiate a $92,000 contract approved with Drake Hagland and Associates at a previous meeting to do work on both alignments to instead just concentrate on the dry levee alignment.
Councilman Richard Silverman — who expressed an opinion that the expressway might be overkill — cautioned that the council’s action Tuesday did not pull the plug on the expressway that would run from a proposed interchange on Highway 99 between Austin Road and Ripon that the city at one time said would cost $110 million to build and the McKinley interchange on the 120 Bypass that may be delayed a number of years because the state lacks the money for its share of the project that they have already committed to fund.
After a number of impacted rural Manteca residents voiced their opposition to the project that will cut through their country neighborhood and drastically alter its character to accommodate future buyers of thousands upon thousands of homes that developers want to build and several council members expressed reservations with the expressway proceeding, Community Development Director Frederic Clark indicated that what was basically being asked was to “un-ring the bell.
He said that in reference to numerous projects including the massive 1,049-acre Austin Road Business Park that has stopped moving forward that have been conditioned with a requirement to help fund the expressway at some point in the future.
City Attorney John Brinton noted that even if the council wanted to bring back the issues of the expressway at an upcoming meeting for a possible vote to kill it, there are major legal ramifications that would need to be addressed in terms of contracts the city has signed with developers regarding their projects. He said those issues would need to be vetted before the council made a decision to move forward.
At one point Mayor Steve DeBrum pressed the city’s traffic consultant to give a ballpark timeline of when he would expect the expressway to be built. The consultant declined to answer with a specific estimate noting it was impossible to make such a projection.
Silverman also noted that if the Austin Road Business Park didn’t proceed with its envisioned 4,200 plus homes, 8 million square feet of industrial/business park uses, and 5.5 million square feet of commercial the expressway would be hard to justify.
Clark noted as things stand now the project is approved and could move forward in the future unless something was done to somehow undo vested rights the city conferred approving maps. The development agreement which is where the project stalled due to issues between the city and developer over who dropped the ball in terms of working on it has not been approved.
To “un-ring” the bell, the council — or future council — would have to change the general plan that currently calls for the expressway and includes an alignment.