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Silverman pans $2M freeway landscaping
Part of the landscaping at the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 interchange. - photo by HIME ROMERO

It is safe to say Councilman Richard Silverman isn’t impressed with the just completed $2 million landscaping project along the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 corridors through Manteca.

“I think we lost $2 million in taxpayer money,” Silverman said Tuesday at the Manteca City Council meeting. “I think it was a waste.”

Silverman made his remarks before reluctantly joining the rest of the council to accept the project as complete so the responsibility of maintenance would shift to Caltrans. Had the council rejected the project as complete, Manteca taxpayers would have been on  the hook for $50,000.

The $2 million was obtained by the city through the American Recovery Act stimulus spending and could only be used for highway beautification projects. Not a penny of city money went into the project that just ended the required three-year maintenance period. That means Caltrans will now maintain the landscaping and periodically watering by tanker trucks will cease.

Silverman, who was not on the council when the city went after the federal stimulus funds and accepted them, said  even the fire breaks that were created with bark to reduce weeds and slow down fires seem to be questionable as to their effectiveness.

“The bark is deteriorating,” Silverman noted.

He refereed to the project as “the so-called landscaping” adding “I still think it looks horrible.

Ironically, the project started in what was to be the first year of the current four year drought. The three-year maintenance period ends just as the worst winter on record for Sierra snow and valley rain is prompting cities up and down the state to cut back on landscape irrigation in a bid to preserve water.

The centerpiece of the landscaping project design is the Highway 99/120 Bypass interchange. When it reaches maturity, the interchange landscaping is supposed to resemble woodlands. It is the first time Caltrans has employed such a design that relies heavily on trees and shrubs that require less water and therefore are more suitable to the valley’s weather patterns.

The planting scheme called for taller trees in the back with heights scaling downward towards the roadway. 

More than 1,700 trees and shrubs were planted as part of the project.