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The Bypass/99 woodlands
$1.4M stimulus funds for up to 1,700 trees
Landscaping is expected to pop up along Yosemite Avenue at the Highway 99 interchange this spring. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Federal stimulus money can be a beautiful thing.

Manteca – working in tandem with Caltrans and the San Joaquin County Council of Governments – is about to undertake the most expensive and ambitious landscaping project in city history.

Some $1.4 million in American Recovery Act money will transform up to 50 acres at two interchanges – the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 as well as Highway 99 at Yosemite Avenue – from barren weed infested areas into ones drenched in color and foliage.

The biggest change will take place at the 120 Bypass with Highway 99 where upwards of 130,000 vehicles pass through daily making it the heaviest traveled pavement in Manteca. It is there that up to 1,700 trees – primarily native species – will be planted.

The Yosemite Avenue and Highway 99 interchange landscaping will be more ornamental in nature. It will include a monument entry sign to Manteca on the island in the middle of Yosemite Avenue on the west side of the freeway.

“They’ll be a lot of green and good fall colors,” noted Katie Reed of the 120 Bypass/Highway 99 portion of the project.

Reed oversees landscaping design for the city.

Caltrans’s design perimeters call for minimizing the use of water at the 120 Bypass/Highway 99 interchange. The trees will be irrigated intensely for about three years to get them established.

The landscaping portion – when it goes out to bid – will require the contractor awarded the project to maintain it for three years. That means the city won’t incur any maintenance costs until late 2013. As far as the 120/Bypass and Highway 99 interchange is concerned three years maintenance would be at a minimum anyway. As for Yosemite and Highway 99, the city has put a cost for upkeep on that interchange’s landscaping due to its ornamental nature at more than $30,000 a year including labor, water, and replacement costs.

Work is expected to start shortly on installing the irrigation system at the Yosemite Avenue and Highway 99 interchange.

Public Works Director Mark Houghton said everyone is working toward allowing planting to take place before the heat sets in.

“Ideally, this is the best time to be planting,” Houghton noted.

The fact the project is as far along as it is now, though, reflects on the teamwork between the three agencies.

Originally, Manteca was moving forward with the Yosemite/99 project when it heard that the federal stimulus money for highways included a landscaping component. Since the project was all ready to go, city leaders approached the SJCOG that serves as regional clearing house for state and federal transportation funds about maybe adding the second interchange into the mix. The securing of the federal funds means Measure K money committed to the project can be used for other freeway landscaping elsewhere within San Joaquin County.

“It’s been an intense effort to get the project to where it is now,” noted Reed.

When it reaches maturity, the 120 Bypass/Highway 99 interchange landscaping will resemble woodlands.

Reed noted the design is a departure for Caltrans when it comes to landscaping along state freeways.

The planting scheme calls for taller trees in the back with heights scaling downward towards the roadway. The evergreen trees picked for the back are similar to the ones you’ll find along Center Street and the west side of Morezone Field.

Others in the mixture includes several oak trees, western red buds, Chinese pistache, and several others.

They are being planted with chicken wire to protect roots from gophers.

At the same time mulch will be placed in such a manner to serve as a fire break to slow down any fires to allow firefighters a chance to knock down grass fires hopefully in time before they can damage trees. Designing fire breaks coupled with the fact mature woodlands would minimize the growth of weeds plus block winds could ultimately mean that fires which are a routine occurrence on all quadrants of the interchange during the dry season will be substantially reduced.

Reed noted that the introduction of up to 1,700 trees will also help “scrub” the air of carbon dioxide emitted from vehicles.

Manteca receiving nearly $7M in federal stimulus funding
Altogether, Manteca is on target to receive at least $7 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

The money flowing to Manteca as part of President Obama’s stimulus package include:

• $586,200 to replace the city’s existing street lights with high-efficiency induction lamps that will save the general fund $150,000 in annual PG&E costs. Factor in three anticipated PG&E rate increases over the next 10 months and that leaves enough savings to pay the salary and benefits of one police officer each year.

•$900,000 to go toward the $2.9 million project to build the four-lane gap missing on Atherton Drive between South Main Street and a point west of Wellington Avenue.

•$957,000 to pay for the rehabilitation of portions of nine streets.

•$1.4 million to hire four additional police officers for three years.

•$1.3 million in transit funds including $380,000 to go toward environmental studies for the proposed transit station at Moffat at Main, $100,000 for an additional fixed route bus, $130,00 for the lease of the new Manteca Transit facility, and $40,000 for marketing, branding and signage.

The city has also retained the services of a lobbying firm to seek additional stimulus funds for other projects that are ready to go forward. In most cases, cities that have set aside matching funds have a better chance of receiving the federal funds.

Manteca is looking at projects that they have been collecting funds for from development and are restricted in how they can be used. That includes other road projects and infrastructure replacements such as water mains.