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The challenge: Beautify Manteca
Mayor hopes 99 project inspires community
A raised planter complete with entrance sign in the Yosemite Avenue median island is part of the landscaping now underway for the Highway 99/Yosemite Avenue interchange. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin
The late Clarese Anderson led a one-woman crusade for much of her life to beautify her adopted hometown.

One thing that proved too daunting for her to change was the barren and weed infested entrance to Manteca at the Yosemite Avenue and Highway 99 interchange. For 55 years the only color you’d find there were weeds in late winter and a sprinkling of California Golden Poppies that made brief appearances before the searing valley heat returned.

Now that work is final underway to beautify Manteca’s front door with landscaping not just at the Highway 99 and Yosemite Avenue interchange but also the Highway 120 Bypass and Highway 99 interchange as well, Mayor Willie Weatherford believes it is time to re-issue Anderson’s challenge made repeatedly over the course of her lifetime.

The challenge is to encourage people - from businesses to homeowners - to step up and spruce up the community. It’s not just to make a first good impression but to fight the spread of blight as well as help start erasing the impact foreclosures have had on the city’s psyche in recent years.

The mayor is hoping that some organization - such as the Manteca Garden Club - will be willing to step forward with a recognition program of those property owners who are making an effort to improve the looks of landscaping. Weatherford said he’d be willing to recognize whoever such an organization honors during City Council meetings when the council gives kudos to those who have made contributions to the community as well as youth who have done well in competition.

The Garden Club does have a “yard of the quarter” program.

Weatherford is hopeful that the investment in upgrading Manteca’s image to those in more than 90,000 vehicles that pass through the interchange daily will encourage others to follow suit.

The mayor is hoping the city will work with the community can also make sure that landscaping of some type takes place when the Union Road and 120 Bypass interchange is revamped as it is another opportunity for Manteca to make a first good impression given the 2.7 million visitors last year alone to the Bass Pro Shops. Caltrans does not have funding for maintenance of freeway landscaping.

Caltrans also is expected to move forward with the new interchange at Main Street and Highway 99 in 2012. There is currently no funding for landscaping that interchange either.

Highway 99 is major
landscaping undertaking

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.

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 now underway on installing the irrigation system at the Yosemite Avenue and Highway 99 interchange.

Originally, Manteca was moving forward with the Yosemite/99project when it heard that the federal stimulus money for highways included a landscaping component. Since the project was already 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.

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

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 allowing 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.