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Manteca seeks $1M for Austin interchange work
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If Uncle Sam has $1 million to spare in highway funds San Joaquin County wants to try to snag it to help generate jobs in Manteca.

 The San Joaquin Council of Governments has made funding for enhancement to the existing interchange on Highway 99 a top tier project they will pitch during the San Joaquin One Voice lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., next month.

The project’s 8 million square feet square feet of industrial/business park, and office use or space equal to 17 times the coverage area of the Ford Motor Parts distribution center on Spreckels Avenue is anticipated to create up to 13,000 jobs. That’s close to 50 percent of the existing jobs in Manteca.

It may seem fruitless to lobby for federal dollars when the sequester has just automatically cut spending. Some transit funds though, are restricted such as federal gas taxes which can only be spent on transit related projects and is unaffected by the sequester.

If Manteca secures federal funding, it will go with $1 million in local matching funds to improve the existing Austin Road interchanges.  The work would include ramp modifications to accommodate increased truck traffic as well as traffic signals on both sides of the bridge including at Austin Road and Moffat Boulevard.

Councilman John Harris noted that colleague Steve DeBrum successfully lobbied the COG board to support the project as a tier one endeavor despite objections from some county representatives.

Caltrans has agreed to allow improvements at the interchange to handle the initial phases of the 1,049-acre Austin Road Business Park. While the project includes 3.5 million square feet of general commercial and enough housing to accommodate 10,200 residents, the phase that will move forward first is the actual business park.

Ultimately a new Austin Road interchange closer to Ripon will need to be built. The overpass connected with the new interchange have six lanes. The price tag could run in excess of $100 million due to the need to bridge the railroad tracks as well as shift the alignment of Highway 99

There has been interest expressed by firms but until infrastructure and access issues are addressed the chance of snagging employers will be on the low side.