There was not much just south of the 120 Bypass 15 years ago.
There were no housing tracts. Woodward Park was just bare weed infested ground. And no one in their wildest imagination could have envisioned a Bass Pro Shops anchoring a shopping complex. In short, there wasn’t much need for roads besides the narrow two-lane Woodward Avenue that passed by almond orchards, dairies, and small rural residential parcels.
In the coming days, one of the missing links of a roadway that is destined to become a major thoroughfare for Manteca will open Atherton Drive between South Main Street and Wellington Avenue. The $2.9 million project will make it possible to go from Union Road near JC Penney to Woodward Avenue just west of Moffat Boulevard.
“Everything will be done and the road open before Thanksgiving,” noted Public Works Director Mark Houghton.
Traffic signals will be kept in the red light flashing mode for several weeks for motorists to get use to the signals at Main Street and Atherton Drive.
Houghton also noted work on Woodard Avenue where new sewer and storm system trunks were put in place and the pavement widened will also be done before the start of the holiday Wednesday.
Once another missing segment between Union Road and Red Ribbon Lane west of Airport Way is completed within the two years, the four-lane road will go almost as far west as McKinley Avenue.
Ultimately Atherton Drive will be the “main street” of South Manteca connecting large scale residential and business park projects planned near the McKinley and 120 Bypass with the 1,050-acre Austin Road Business Park developing along Austin Road south of Woodward Avenue.
It also opens up high profile frontage along all so the south side of the 120 Bypass to potential commercial and office development.
Austin Road Business Park, though, will be the biggest traffic generator for Atherton Drive.
The city has approved plans to accommodate 3.5 million square feet of general commercial or five times the size of Orchard Valley when it is finished. The plan also calls for 2,358 traditional single-family homes, 1,840 multiple family units, plus 8 million square feet of industrial and business park projects. The employment centers would be the equivalent of 15 buildings the size of the Ford Motor Co. distribution center in Spreckels Park.
Austin Road Business Park could add 10,200 residents to Manteca and has the potential of creating up to 13,000 jobs.