Manteca is ground zero for freeway interchange construction in the Northern San Joaquin Valley over the next 15 years.
While other cities may have one or even two interchange projects in the works Manteca is juggling five interchange projects.
“Our location is both a blessing and a curse,” noted Manteca Public Works Director Mark Houghton. “We’ve got great freeway access but we also have to pay to develop that access.”
Houghton noted that Manteca appeals to two types of job generators - regional retail and distribution thanks to its central location and network of freeways.
“Most cities have just one freeway or maybe two,” Houghton said. “Manteca really has three given how Interstate 5 is just a couple of miles away and our major streets (Louise Avenue, Lathrop Road, and the 120 Bypass) have direct connections to it.”
Firms locating distribution centers like the fact it is not only close to two railroad intermodal operations - Union Pacific in Lathrop and Santa Fe northeast of Manteca - and the three freeways but that you can reach 40 million consumers within 30 hours by truck. Likewise, retailers such as Bass Pro Shops are drawn by the fact Manteca is at the epicenter of the third largest 100-mile radius market in the United States with 17 million consumers second only to Long Island and Los Angeles.
There are two interchange projects in the hopper on Highway 99 - Lathrop Road and Austin Road (actually the future extension of McKinley Avenue). The other three are Union Road, Airport Way, and McKinley Avenue on the 120 Bypass.
The first to move forward will likely be the Lathrop Road interchange being built with state bond money authorized by Proposition 1A and Manteca’s share of Measure K half cent sales tax receipts. The project is now in the right-of-way acquisition phase.
The new Lathrop Road interchange expected to get underway in 2013 isn’t going to be your run-of-the-mill bridge over Highway 99.
Its design may include elements of Manteca’s downtown streetscape design, utilizing brick and black painted steel design elements plus the Tidewater-style street lights.
The interchange design is expected to serve as a gateway to Manteca from the north marking a definite entrance to the city. By the time work is completed on various projects in 2014, the Highway 99 corridor through Manteca will be transformed from a bleak 1950s era freeway to arguably the nicest landscaped stretch of the freeway between Red Bluff and Bakersfield thanks to $3.7 million in landscaping projects now in the works. It will also include new sound walls to replace those in various stages of decay.
Caltrans is taking advantage of a favorable construction environment in terms of cost to accelerate the Highway 99 corridor work between Arch Road and the Highway 120 Bypass. The actual widening to six lanes from four lanes will start in the spring of 2011 since no right-of-way acquisition is needed. The additional lanes are going in the center divider.
The six-lane Lathrop Road interchange will replace a narrow two-lane bridge built in 1955 that has no sidewalks.
Putting the new interchange at Lathrop Road and removing the existing off and on ramps from southbound Highway 99 on to Main Street was the overwhelming preference of the 400 who opposed the original plan plus that of the Manteca City Council, Manteca Unified School District board, and the Manteca Chamber of Commerce.
The new Lathrop Road interchange will include a bridge deck with four lanes, eight-foot wide shoulders that can easily accommodate bicycles, and sidewalks. The off and on ramps will be on the north side of Lathrop Road with the ramps on the west side being aligned to tie directly with North Main Street that would be widened to four lanes to Northgate Drive.
The Frontage Road on the west side would swing wide to connect with Crestwood Avenue.
The ramps on the west side would tie into Lathrop Road with a new T-intersection. Southland Road as well as the Frontage Road on the east side would swing away from the interchange and meet in a new alignment further to the east.
The French Camp interchange will also have new on and off ramps put in place on the north side with the two bridges on Highway 99 being rebuilt to improve sight lines and enhance safety.
The project will close the Frontage Road on both sides of Little Johns Creek near Stockton Airport and covert them into cul-de-sacs.
Also, another lane will be added to Highway 99 between Yosemite Avenue and the Austin Road interchange.
Sound walls will be put in place immediately across from Raymus Village on the east side as well as near the mobile home park on Southland Road.
The sound wall behind homes on the west side of the freeway between Yosemite Avenue and North Main Street will be replaced and extended to screen additional homes that have been built in Aksland Estates.
The Union Road and Highway 120 Bypass could actually move to construction first. That project involves widening the bridge deck for Union Road and improving on and off ramps. The Airport Way interchange widening is farther down the road.
The new Austin Road (McKinley Avenue extension) interchange may cost as much as $150 million. It will be located about a mile south of the current Austin Road interchange that could eventually become an overcrossing only.
The high cost of Austin Road reflects the need to clear the railroad tracks with the overcrossing as well as to shift Highway 99 to accommodate the bridge structure.