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McKinley: The new bypass?
Its rural residents vs. city growth plans
Rural residents fear a McKinley Avenue Expressway would draw traffic like Woodward Avenue does when the commute slows to a crawl on the 120 Bypass in the afternoons. - photo by HIME ROMERO
There is a fear by many who live today among dairies and almond orchards south of Manteca that the proposed extension of McKinley Avenue to provide an expressway connection between the Highway 120 and Highway 99 freeways will end up becoming what residents have called “a bypass of the bypass.”

It is in reference to the growing number of  frustrated motorists who exit at either Union Road or Airport Way during the afternoon return commute from the Bay Area when eastbound traffic on the 120 Bypass slows down to a crawl. They then take Woodward Avenue traveling oftentimes 10 miles or more above the speed limit based on previous city observations.

During such slowdowns traffic picks up considerably on Woodward Avenue. Although there is no precise measurement, most observations seem to point to those taking Woodward as a short cut at either Union Road or Airport Way are Manteca residents who live in the Woodward Park area that can indeed make better time exiting earlier and taking surface streets sooner instead of leaving the freeway at Main Street.

There have been occasions, though, when traffic has been snarled by freeway accidents that traffic bound for Modesto and Ripon have used Woodward Avenue as an actual bypass of the 120 Bypass.

And although city planning staff may make the case that an extension of McKinley from Woodward Avenue in the west to Highway 99 at a new proposed interchange in the west roughly midway between Austin Road and Jack Tone Road isn’t designed as a bypass of the Highway 120 freeway, they’re going to have a tough time selling that to rural residents.

One of them is retired Manteca Police Captain Bill Mahaffie. He contends the expressway simply would let the state off the hook from the need to widen the 120 Bypass to six lanes and add an additional transit lane to southbound Highway 99.

Planners respond to such concerns noting that the bypass can’t be widened until the Austin Road interchange is replaced due to inadequate room for a second merge lane from the 120 Bypass to southbound Highway 99. There will be room for such a lane, though, once the new McKinley interchange is built on Highway 99.

Future bypasses and such are just one of a number of concerns rural residents have been using in an attempt to block the alignment from being officially designated by the city.

The Manteca Planning Commission meets again tonight at 7 o’clock to tackle the question. They meet in the council chambers at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

City staff contends it would be “irresponsible planning” not to designate a future east-west road. Residents counter that it is indeed “irresponsible planning” since plotting the alignment officially on a map would induce growth that would destroy the very farming the county has been battling to protect with 20- and 40-acre minimum zoning.

The city contends the road is not being driven by developers but to allow for orderly development when it occurs. The rural residents have countered that the city in reality is inducing development by showing developers exactly what road structure they will support.

Last year, a group of northeast rural Manteca residents banded together to thwart the proposed Highway 99 interchange in north Manteca from becoming an extension of Northgate Drive. Such a move would have provided a direct tie-in to Southland Road and would have created what they called a natural “short cut” to the freeway for existing residents in East Manteca via Cottage Avenue.

They convinced the City Council to go with the Lathrop Road interchange option instead.

The battle is being framed not a “not in my backyard” argument by rural residents but as one designed to protect their rural lifestyle. Adding validity to their point is the fact the closest city developments are between a mile and two miles north of the proposed southern alignment of McKinley.

They also question why the city is proposing an alignment that essentially fails to follow a state mandate that development not be allowed within 100-year flood plains that do not have adequate protection. The city has said the road will not go forward unless such protection is provided by a new dry levee or cross levee.