Thirty or more vehicles routinely back up during weekday afternoon commute hours on southbound Moffat Boulevard at the Austin Road intersection.
Manteca is hoping traffic there gets much worse in the next few years. That’s because if it does, Manteca will be luring jobs to what is ultimately envisioned as 8 million square feet of industrial/business park, and office use in the Austin Road Business Park. The city hopes to ultimately see an employment center at Austin Road Business Park built that is equal to 17 times the coverage area of the Ford Motor Parts distribution center on Spreckels Avenue. Such square footage could eventually generate 13,000 jobs or close to 50 percent of existing private and public sector jobs combined within the city limits.
The next step toward turning dirt on the business park took place this week when the City Council approved a memorandum of understanding with the Austin Road Partners. The agreement puts the private concern on the hook for reimbursing the city for all costs Union Pacific Railroad bills them to engineer and design the needed Austin Road crossing improvements.
The crossing must be widened to accommodate trucks. The traffic signals proposed for Moffat at Austin also have to be tied into the railroad crossing arms much as they are at Industrial Park Drive.
“The railroad won’t work directly with private concerns involving (public roads),” noted Manteca Public Works Director Mark Houghton.
That is why Austin Road managing partners Toni Raymus and Bill Filios signed the reimbursement agreement so work can proceed.
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 also 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.
The first improvements will be to the existing interchanges. It will cost upwards of $2 million for work including track crossing changes, 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.
The second set of improvements will eventually be the construction of an entirely new interchange somewhere between Austin Road and Jack Tone Road on Highway 99. That interchange will have six through lanes and would serve as the main access point to the overall project. The price tag could be in excess of $100 million for the new interchange since it has to bridge the railroad crossing as well as move the freeway to the east.