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Staff cut delays Louise Avenue widening
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The widening of Louise Avenue across the railroad tracks east of Airport Way has been delayed due to staffing cuts. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The effort to widen the Louise Avenue crossing of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks between Airport Way and Union Road to four lanes is now in its fourth year.

It was originally targeted for 2007. But in trying to move the crossing widening forward with work done to construct four lanes between the tracks and Airport Way, it hit a snag with Union Pacific.

Then after the rest of the road was widened, UP was able to move forward in 2008 to widen the concrete panels for the vehicle crossing during a period of scheduled maintenance on the heavily traveled track line.

The widening was scheduled for 2009 but there was one approval that was still needed from the California Public Utilities Commission. Once the road is widened, a valve station controlling pipeline flow would be too close to the road. That meant an additional improvement with modifications.

Everything finally fell in line earlier this year allowing Manteca to enter the final design phase. Once that is completed, it can go to bid.

Unfortunately, the engineer working on the project at City Hall was laid off Friday as part of the cutbacks to balance this year’s fiscal budget.

Public Works Director Mark Houghton noted the city will now try to juggle work and to get the design done.

“It will go forward as we do have the money to do the work,” Houghton said.

Once the railroad crossing is widened to four lanes, it will leave only four segments of Louise Avenue within the city limits that will still be two lanes. And each two-lane segment is boxed in by four lanes or pavement wide enough to accommodate four lanes.

Those segments are:

• From Airport Way to the Lathrop city limits.

• A small stretch east of North Main Street.

• The bridge crossing of Highway 99.

• Another small segment east of Cottage Avenue.

The state last year awarded Manteca funds to do some widening on Louise Avenue from the receipts of the proposition 1B bond.

The most costly of the four would be the overcrossing and section east of North Main Street. Bridge structures cost well in excess of $8 million while the short segment would require extensive property acquisition.

The city has always expected the developer of the now dormant Villa Ticino East project south of the Manteca Unified School District office complex to pay for most of that work when they do start developing.

That means the most likely stretch to get the city’s attention would be east of Cottage Avenue.

Pedestrian improvements have been promised by the city to residents in the area between Empire Street and Cottage Avenue. It would involve some street widening, curbs, gutters, and sidewalks.

The city has yet to identify an exact project. Even if it went with the segment east of Cottage Avenue it would still require coming up with additional funding to augment the state bond money.