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New look for Highway 99
Manteca corridor shedding tired 1955-era feel
The Austin Road and Highway 99 on and off ramps, nearby streets and landscaping will be upgraded in 2015. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Sometime in 2015 the Highway 99 corridor’s transformation through Manteca will be complete.

Almost all traces of the aging 1955 freeway will be gone save the Louise Avenue and Cottage Avenue overcrossings.

The freeway that for years gave motorists a less than flattering impression of Manteca will no longer be dominated by weeds, fences in disrepair, or the absence of landscaping at interchanges.

Sound walls will block off most of the traffic noise and drivers on Button Avenue will no longer have to worry about vehicles flying off the freeway through oleanders and a low cyclone fence just south of the Yosemite Avenue interchange. And instead of traffic being constricted to two lanes in each direction, there will be three lanes going south and three lanes going north.

The new four-lane Lathrop Road interchange was designed as the main northern gateway to Manteca. The City Council opted for drought tolerant landscaping to create a visual statement.

The new interchange means Manteca will incur operating costs for two new traffic signals on either side of the interchange plus street lighting expenses to the tune of $15,000 a year. That bill will be covered by Manteca’s gas tax receipts.

The annual landscaping maintenance is estimated to cost $55,000, down considerably from the original design submitted by Caltrans that would have cost $120,000 a year in upkeep. The cost will be covered by the general fund or other restricted to-be-identified transportation funds.

Work is anticipated to be underway in 2015 on a multiple phase project to improve the Austin Road and Highway 99 interchange

The initial $2.4 million worth of work will only involve changes with the Caltrans right-of-way. The balance of improvements needed to city streets including Austin Road, a segment of Moffat Boulevard connecting to Woodward Avenue and the railroad crossing will cost an additional $3 million. All of the improvements are needed before Austin Road Business Park partnership can start development of 4.8 million square feet of Business Park as part for the project’s first phase.

The Caltrans right-of-way work will include adding ramp metering — red and green lights that control the flow of traffic on to a freeway on the southbound onramp to Highway 99 at Austin Road. The requirement for ramp metering  is a nod to the fact the freeway at that point is heavily congested due to 120 Bypass eastbound traffic heading south onto Highway 99. The traffic currently causes backups daily on the 120 Bypass sometimes as far back as Airport Way. Once Highway 99 is widened to three lanes from the Crosstown Freeway in Stockton to the 120 Bypass the lane — that is now dedicated exclusively to 120 traffic that is heading onto 99 — will turn into a merge lane. That is expected to further because back-up issues which is where the metering ramp comes into play. 

There would also be traffic signals at the off ramps as well as Austin Road or Moffat Boulevard. The Austin/Moffat traffic signals would be tied into the Union Pacific cross arms similar to signals at Moffat and Industrial Park Drive/Spreckels Avenue. The actual railroad crossing improvements will be made in the next phase.

Ramps at the Austin Road and Highway 99 interchange will be widened including allowing the southbound off ramp to 99 to have two left turn lanes and a right turn lane.

Manteca will pay for the traffic signals and lighting upkeep at the upgraded Austin Road interchange. It will cost $10,000 a year and will come from gas tax receipts. The developers will pay for maintaining landscaping that will be put in place.

The improvements dovetails into the replacement of the Yosemite Avenue overcrossing and interchange nearly 10 years ago.