Vince Hernandez isn’t mincing words. The Raymus Expressway needs to be killed.
The Manteca City Councilman believes the expressway that would connect the McKinley Avenue interchange at the 120 Bypass with a proposed new interchange midway between Manteca and Ripon on Highway 99 is “overkill.”
Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum agrees. He believes the city has too many road needs costing too much money for Raymus Expressway to be feasible. The council six years ago was told the Highway 99 interchange for Raymus Expressway would cost more than $110 million while work needed on four interchanges on the bypass including McKinley Avenue could push the tab to almost $200 million.
“Where are we going to get the money?” the mayor asked.
“It’s not needed,” Hernandez said of the expressway. “Austin Business Park has gone quiet.”
But even if the approved 1,050-acre development that is in southeast Manteca moves forward decades from now Hernandez believes the expressway may not even be needed then.
Both DeBrum and Hernandez want to revisit the $92,002 contract the council approved earlier this month to hire Drake Haglin and Associates to come up with alignments for both the envisioned Antone Raymus Expressway and the dry levee in southwest Manteca. The levee is needed to meet a state mandate that Manteca be protected from a 200-year flood. If that doesn’t happen, the state will shut down all new construction in the 200-year floodplain as well as prevent any expansion of existing structures — homes included — as well ban the adding of outbuildings such as sheds.
The expressway, however, is a local option that the council can decide whether it is needed.
DeBrum and Hernandez favor moving forward with completing Atherton Drive between Airport Way and Union Road now that the business park is no longer a viable project at the current time. That means shifting money redirected to enhance Moffat Boulevard at Austin Road and the Highway 99 interchange back to completing the missing link on Atherton. Public Works Director Mark Houghton has noted the plans are ready for work to start on that segment. It could happen as early as next year.
“We need to put (the Atherton Drive segment in) to open up the area along the bypass for commercial development,” Hernandez said.
And if and when the business park goes forward, Hernandez believes the current proposal to extend Austin Road south of Woodward Avenue will suffice for traffic needs.
DeBrum shares that view but added having the expressway in the mix with all of the other interchange work and major roads projects would be financially crushing.
“The city should not be pitting neighbors against neighbors,” Hernandez added.
The placement of the Raymus Expressway alignment would mean some neighbors would dodge the bullet while others would be saddled with a major street at some point disrupting their tranquil lifestyle. Unlike large swaths of land generally to the east of Union Road and the west of Airport Way where an expressway could go and subdivisions could ultimately be built, the area between those two roads consists of numerous one to five acre parcels with homes on them.