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Shedding ugly image isnt cheap
Entrance to Manteca at Lathrop Road/99 carries maintenance price tag
Weeds are the prevalent vegetation that currently graces the existing Highway 99 and Lathrop Road interchange. - photo by HIME ROMERO

First impressions aren’t cheap.

It may cost Manteca between $120,000 and $180,000 in annual upkeep to maintain a heavily landscaped “entrance feature” for the city once the new interchange at Lathrop Road and Highway 99 is completed.

The landscaping will replace the weeds, barren earth and a few trees that now dominate the existing interchange

There are several landscaping options including one that includes more than 250 shade and flowering trees in tight formation designed to change the impression some 75,000 motorists have of Manteca that pass by the interchange every day.

Bond money being spent to widen Highway 99 between the 120 Bypass and the Cross-town Freeway in Stockton from four to six lanes as well as improve interchanges includes funding for the landscaping and initial establishment period of up to three years. Beyond that, landscaping maintenance will be on the city’s dime. It is similar to Caltrans arrangements involving the City of Ripon and Jack Tone and Highway 99 interchange upkeep as well as with the City of Manteca for Yosemite Avenue and Highway 99 landscape maintenance.

The Manteca City Council is being asked to decide between landscaping options that they want - and are willing - to commit to maintaining when they meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

The landscaping plan also calls for numerous mass shrub planting designed to eventually cover large areas with solid greenery. There would also be native grasses and landscape cobblestones. And – at the corner of Main Street and Lathrop Road – there would be roses.

Part of a major transformation along 99 corridor

The landscaping for the new interchange is just one facet of a four-point program aimed at transforming Highway 99 through Manteca that is now anything but appealing.

Motorists whizzing by at 65 mph see a collage of decaying sound walls, the back side of aging commercial structures, and weeds

Its ugly duckling status among South County freeways will start to fade once a $496 million transformation starts this  summer.

When completed, it will provide Manteca with arguably the sharpest looking interchange in all of San Joaquin County plus a 13.1-mile long landscaped corridor complete with new sound walls.

The Proposition 1B project covers work between the 120 Bypass in Manteca and Arch Road at the Stockton Airport.  A separate project addresses Arch Road to the Highway 4 freeway in Stockton. Both projects are being made possible with a marriage of the countywide Measure K half cent sales tax and a chunk of the $1 billion state bond proceeds set aside for modernizing Highway 99 through the Central Valley.

Initial work starts this spring/summer on adding a third lane in the center divider in each direction. The second phase is a new interchange at French Camp Road while the third phase involves a new interchange at Lathrop Road. The fourth and final phase is landscaping.

The biggest visual impact of the actual construction will be the new interchange at Lathrop Road.

And it 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.

By the time work is completed on various projects in 2016, 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. It will also include new sound walls to replace those in various stages of decay.

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 six-lane Lathrop Road interchange will replace a narrow two-lane bridge built 1995 that has no sidewalks.

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.

Some 1,700 trees and shrubs have already been planted at the Highway 99 and Highway 120 Bypass interchange on Manteca’s southern flank that ultimately will create mini-woodlands. Landscaping has been put in place already at Yosemite Avenue and East Highway 120 with work now underway on landscaping along the 120 Bypass. Ultimately, landscaping will run north along Highway 99 to at least French Camp Road.

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 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.