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Sound move: Replacing aging walls
Work part of $496M widening project
Highway 99 widening from four to six lanes through Manteca could start as early as spring of 2012. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin
A drive on Highway 99 through Manteca isn’t a pretty picture.

Motorists pass a stretch of sound wall on the west side of the freeway between the North Main Street exit and the Yosemite Avenue exit that is in various stages of deterioration. In some locations small sections are missing eliminating the privacy of the impacted homeowners who have basic fences separating them from the traffic and their property.

That all will change in the next few years thanks to the $496 million project that will widen Highway 99 between the Highway 120 Bypass and the Cross-town Freeway in Stockton.

Caltrans spokesperson Zelie Nogueira noted replacement of the sound walls are part of the project that could see the widening portion start as early of spring 2011 if the California Transportation Commission concurs.

The sound walls will be placed in Caltrans right-of-way which means no additional land acquisition will be needed for the replacement work. The older sound walls will be removed.

“We may need to have (temporary) easement access on individual property to build the sound walls,” Nogueira noted.

The sound walls back up to the Manteca neighborhoods of Springtime Estates, Shasta, and Magna Terra on the west side of the freeway.

Caltrans will not build sound walls elsewhere in Manteca as part of the widening project. However, as residential projects pop up in coming years that abut the freeway the developers will be required to put in sound walls to Caltrans standards.

The existing sound walls were put in place by the developers of the three neighborhoods.

Some homeowners such as Beverly Angel and several of her neighbors have been trying to get Caltrans to repair or replace the walls since 2002.

The state declined to do so since the sound walls were not built by Caltrans.

Nogueira explained that the freeway was there first so the developer had to build the sound walls. As such, it became the responsibility of property owners to replace them when crashes occurred or the walls simply started to deteriorate. Typically that is covered by homeowners’ insurance.

Since the state is now changing the complexion of the freeway by widening it from four to six lanes, it legally is their responsibility under California law to foot the bill.

The new sound walls will be to current Caltrans standards and will be put in place as part of the widening.

The widening project will mean the three northbound lanes coming from Ripon will no longer be squeezed down to two lanes just past the Highway 120 Bypass transition ramp.

Unlike the two new interchanges going at French Camp Road and Lathrop Road on Highway 99, the widening of the freeway from four to six lanes requires no right-of-way acquisition. Moving up that part of the project a year also means favorable construction costs can save money.

Work on the two interchanges is targeted to move forward in the spring of 2012.

Some 13.1 miles of four-lanes of the Highway 99 freeway corridor is being widened to six lanes. It is being paid for with a combination of state highway bond funds set aside especially for Highway 99 improvements between Bakersfield and Red Bluff as well as the half cent Measure K sales tax collected in San Joaquin County for transit projects.