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Railroad work signal that jobs are on the way
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When they start working on the railroad at Austin Road near the Highway 99 interchange in early 2014 it’ll mean the first of 9,134 new “direct” jobs are on their way to Manteca.

The widening of the railroad crossing is part of $10.4 million in upfront improvements to the Highway 99 interchange at Austin Road as well as South Austin Road that are being made to start development of the job-rich Austin Road Business Park in southeast Manteca.

Mike Locke — the former head of the San Joaquin Partnership who is now serving as a consultant for the Manteca-based investment group behind the 1,049-acre project that is within 1.5 miles of Ripon’s northwest city limits — updated the Manteca City Council on the endeavor Tuesday night.

The timeline calls for modifications to the Highway 99/Austin Road interchange ramps to start in early 2014. Work on the railroad crossing will be a separate project as well the upgrading of South Austin Road to federal standards to accommodate 53-foot long truck trailers. Breaking the road work into three segments allows the work to proceed faster.

The interchange modifications will cost $3.9 million. It includes traffic signals at Austin and Moffat, at the off ramps that connect to Moffat, as well as at the Austin and freeway ramps on the northeast side. The traffic lights at Moffat and Austin will be tied into the railroad crossing much as they are at Industrial Park Drive/Spreckels Avenue and Moffat.

Moffat will be widened to four lanes between Austin and Woodward Avenue.

The South Austin Road project will cost $6.4 million.

The investors will also be spending $13.9 million to put infrastructure and roads in place within the business park portion of the project.

Locke indicated once negotiations snag the first employer that will create 650 jobs work will start on the business park site. The other work will proceed ahead of such an agreement,

Locke expects it to take up to 36 months for the first employment center to open in the project. Ultimately a new interchange is essential for the complete build out of the Austin Road Business Park that will straddle Austin Road south of the existing Highway 99 interchange and borders the railroad and freeway on the east. Manteca has already approved the projwect.

The first phase will consist of the employment center. It can start development without a new interchange although modifications are needed to the existing Austin Road interchange.

Austin Road Business Park includes:

•3.5 million square feet of general commercial or about 26 times the square footage of the Manteca Costco store.

•At least 2,358 traditional single family homes and 1,840 multi-family dwelling units such as townhouses, apartments, and condos  that can accommodate up to 10,200 people or just under a seventh of the city’s existing population.

•8 million 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.