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Manteca council exploring reserve loan to build Atherton
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The council wants to get Atherton Drive extended from Union Road to Airport Way to help address ongoing traffic issues south of the 120 Bypass. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

If you drive the congested streets of Manteca, Debby Moorhead feels your pain
The Manteca councilwoman has been spending time driving around Manteca to take a firsthand look at traffic and how it impacts the quality of life as well as safety.
What she is seeing isn’t making her a happy camper.
“I was shocked,” she said of a large uptick in truck traffic on Lathrop Road in the afternoons as the 120 Bypass backs up and becomes a dangerous place to drive.
Moorhead made the comments during Thursday’s Manteca City Council budget workshop.
And while Moorhead noted that Lathrop Road has always been a truck route, truck drivers are avoiding the stop-and-go as well as last minute lane changes that create commute issues on the Bypass to travel from the Interstate 5 to Highway 99 corridor.
Moorhead, who is in the process of having a new home built in southeast Manteca off of Woodward Avenue, said that in making several trips a week to check on the progress on the house she has been forced to find alternative routes to avoid the afternoon snarl on Woodward Avenue.
“It’s horrible on Woodward,” Moorhead said.
She underscored points residents have been making for years: Those who commute to the Bay Area from Stanislaus County are leaving the 120 Bypass during the afternoon commutes in significant numbers to avoid the deadly and highly congested transition from the Bypass to Highway 99.
They get off the Bypass at Airport Way and head south to Woodward Avenue where they then drive east to Moffat Boulevard so they can get on Highway 99 at Austin Road.
She noted the backup is so bad for traffic on Moffat trying to get through the four-way stop at Austin Road that on day it took her 35 minutes to make a right turn on Woodward coming from Spreckels Avenue.

She wants Atherton
Drive gap built
Her immediate solution to make life better for Manteca residents while Caltrans pursues what could be an $80 million fix at the Highway 99 interchanges with the 120 Bypass and Austin Road targeted for construction in 2020-2021 is for the city to deliver on a promise made more than seven years ago to those living south of the 120 Bypass — build the missing gap between Union Road and Airport Way.
The commute traffic trying to avoid the transition ramp mess at Highway 99 would follow the path of least resistance to reach Moffat Boulevard if the gap is bridged as there would be a four-lane route with minimal stops as opposed to the narrow two-lane Woodward Avenue.
Councilman Mike Morowit noted that putting the gap in would also make it more appealing for retail to develop on land that has freeway exposure between interchanges a mile apart at Airport Way and Union Road.
And Moorhead wants “it done right.” That means instead of just two lanes going in to bridge the gap until such time adjacent land is developed to put in place the other two travel lanes, all of the street goes in at one time.
The rest of the council couldn’t agree more with Moorhead.
It is why after former Public Works Director Ron Cheek — who has worked on private sector development after stepping away from the city post nearly three decades ago — presented a solution to finance the Atherton Drive staff so it can be built now, the council made it clear to staff to take steps to present a game plan for them to consider using to deliver on the Atherton Drive promise.
Manteca is sitting on $25.4 million in various general fund reserves. While it is earmarked for various purposes, some of it — $4.3 million in bonus bucks, $4.6 for economic revitalization, and other reserves that don’t have a specific project in place moving forward to finance or weren’t created to cover cash flow, emergency, and economic downturn — could be tapped for inter-fund loans.
Such a loan could marry money for roads collected from growth through the Public Facilities Implementation Plan to provide the $5 million to build the gap. Of that amount, $2 million was already designated to come from the PFIP funds to initially build just two lanes for now. When developers proceed with projects fronting the road they’d construct the remaining lanes and other improvements.
Cheek noted all of the involved developers have already agreement to reimburse the city for the second phase work on the Atherton under a strategy that would build initially just two lanes.

Money borrowed from
reserves would be paid
back as projects
go forward
In reality the entire $5 million tab is being picked up by developers as they pay the PFIP fees as well.
When the private sector projects move forward, they would pay the city for the additional lanes that would allow Atherton Drive to be built all at one time instead of in phases. The city then would use that money to pay back the loan from the appropriate reserve account.
Ironically, one of the reasons why the roads funds in the PFIP doesn’t have more money currently for projects is because the city borrowed money from that account to help pay for sewer and water related projects required to accommodate growth. As development occurs and fees are paid for water and sewer connections, the PFIP road loans to other accounts is being repaid.
Mayor Steve DeBrum asked staff to bring back to a future council meeting an internal loan strategy that would make the Atherton gap project possible as well as help bridge a funding shortfall for the Union Road/120 Bypass interchange project.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email