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Ugly days near an end?
Funds secured for interchange landscaping
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Manteca may soon drop out of the running for Weed Patch USA honors at least as far as part of the Highway 99 corridor is concerned.

The city has been successful in its bid to secure Measure K transit funds set aside exclusively for landscaping to  end the chokehold weeds have on the city’s two most high-profile interchanges – Highway 99 and the Highway 120 Bypass as well as Highway 99 at Yosemite Avenue.

Mayor Willie Weatherford said he expects staff to go ahead and complete the long-stalled landscaping at the Highway 99 and Yosemite Avenue interchange while preparing specifications for the second interchange work.

“It’s been too long,” Weatherford noted of the barren weed-infested interchange at Yosemite Avenue that serves as the front door to the city.

The $18 million widening and replacement of freeway bridges has been complete for two years. The landscaping was supposed to follow immediately but it got hung up in the Caltrans approval process.

When completed it will mark the first time ever that there has been landscaping at the Yosemite Avenue interchange that has existed since 1955.

Besides shrubs and trees, it will include a low-profile monument sign in the island median on Yosemite Avenue reading “Manteca.”

The mayor said it will help change the first impression many people get of Manteca which – thanks to the weeds – isn’t flattering.

The project was ready to go forward earlier this summer but the state budget crisis pulled the relatively small portion of the funding Caltrans had to cover their share of the work. Manteca was able to secure unused Measure K landscaping funds for that interchange and the Highway 120 Bypass/99 interchange because they could match the money while other cities couldn’t. Manteca’s matching funds are coming from funds are restricted for certain purposes and can’t be used to balance the general fund.

Landscaping the interchanges will also reduce perennial fire dangers.

Manteca’s last fire fatality was during a grass fire at the Highway 120 and Highway 99 interchange when thick smoke disorientated an elderly driver and he drove into the burning dry grass where his passenger died.