If you think Airport Way is atrocious now, give it a few years.
Thanks to a combination of things the worst traffic congestion you see now at the Airport Way interchange to Daniels Street will seem like empty roadways. And you will also be longing for the bone jarring ride you now experience on much of the corridor after a decade or so of Manteca’s version of managed growth.
The key contributing factors are:
*The overwhelming odds Airport Way will become a major truck route that makes truck movements you see today seem non-existent.
*The lure of distribution concerns locating close to the Union Pacific intermodal facility that will grow with the Northern California Megaregion due to its critical role in moving consumer goods.
*A truck spine road to take truck traffic off of Airport Way that is about as likely to happen as the Sierra Club embracing a proposal from Donald Trump to build a pair of 20-story condo towers in Yosemite Valley.
*The city’s inability to secure timely funding for the McKinley Avenue/120 Bypass interchange and non-existent plans to even touch the Airport Way interchange while rolling out growth inducing interchange plans pushing $150 million along the Highway 99 corridor for extensions of Roth Road and the Raymus Parkway.
*The wild assumption that Lathrop is OK with Manteca dumping its truck traffic down Lathrop and Roth roads.
Manteca’s general plan update — the one that is touted as generating more jobs and is designed to accommodate a population of 116,545 in the next 20 years or so — will seal Airport Way’s fate and everyone who uses the corridor to go to and from their homes, shopping, to school, or who happen to live within Jake Brake sound distance.
No need for alarm. Elected officials, carpetbagger consultants, and textbook planners say just because the city is planning for growth doesn’t mean it is going to happen.
They’re probably right. It’ll probably be worse. The Airport Way corridor 20 years ago was just a country road. No one envisioned distribution centers, Costco, shopping centers, housing developments, or a 500-room mega resort.
The bottom line is the updated general plan as proposed is going to deliver those jobs the council has long promised at a high price.
That price is going to be an extensive mixture of truck movements with local traffic because Manteca is harnessing its biggest asset to draw major regional distribution — available land that is a stone’s throw from the No. 1 way to move goods cross-country which is a major railroad intermdodal yard such as the one Union Pacific has snuggled between the city limits of Manteca and Lathrop.
To top that off the land being proposed for future industrial/business parks is just an extension of existing municipal water and wastewater trunk lines.
Add to it being smack dab in the center of the West Coast’s major north-south freeway in the form of Interstate 5 and California’s Main Street freeway for movement of goods that’s also known as Highway 99. It’s just two miles or so to either freeway.
The added bonus is being 10-minutes away from Stockton Metro Airport that Amazon has tapped for rapid goods movement to serve the growing Bay Area market. Rest assured others won’t be far behind.
Tracy, which has far more distribution, has less truck traffic conflicts.
How is that so? The answer is simple. They developed interchanges along Interstate 580 as well as McArthur Drive on Interstate 205 designed primarily for truck movements to and from distribution centers.
What Manteca’s planned growth does is the equivalent of Tracy putting a lion’s share of its distribution centers north of the West Valley Mall-Costco-Walmart shopping areas and forcing truck traffic to intermingle with the heavy shopping traffic on Grantline Road.
And it’s not just truck traffic per se that distribution centers bring.
Manteca is now processing plans for a “last mile” e-commerce distribution center of 141,360 square feet along Airport Way just north of Del Webb. It will have 15 loading docks to unload an average of 54 semi-trucks every day. It will also have parking capacity for 854 walk-in delivery vans. That’s just one distribution center,
Airport Way traffic will have that mixture plus what could be called “The West Ripon Road Effect”.
The afternoon commute traffic that is deteriorating the quality of life in Ripon is not from 120 Bypass drive around.
It originates in the International Park of Commerce on the west side of Tracy as well as the industrial area on the east side where Amazon alone is already building to double down on its two existing million square foot distribution centers.
Durham Ferry Road and Kasson Road funnel that traffic across the Airport Way bridge over the San Joaquin River.
Why this is important is the pile of horse pucky textbook planners spout that the residential being planned in what will eventually be northern annexations to Manteca will create a housing-jobs balance with the robust business parks being planned.
Anyone who believes the single family homes or high density housing that will be built near where Amazon, 5.11 Tactical and Lowe’s are today will house distribution center employees is delusional. Jobs paying $15 to $20 an hour, even if they are 40 hours a week, don’t pay for $500,000 houses or $2,200 apartments.
Just like many of the employees in Tracy distribution centers live in lower cost Modesto and beyond as evidenced by “The West Ripon Road Effect”, the vast majority of those laboring in Manteca distribution centers will never live in Manteca as they cannot afford to do so.
The spine road, an envisioned “private” road serving as a truck route between the railroad tracks and Airport Way to get truck traffic off of Airport Way, is never going to be constructed in its entirety.
Two things assure that. There are a lot of moving parts including the 229 acres on the southwest corner of Airport Way and Louise Avenue.
Since plans for a massive business park fell through, its most valuable use is for 1,000 plus homes the property owner has the vested rights as bestowed by the city to develop. Given the housing market and development issues surrounding a business park at that location, it doesn’t require a Livermore Lab scientist to figure out the highest profit probability by far is housing will be built.
Once that happens a “legal” spine road for trucks is impossible although Manteca’s less than spectacular record enforcing bad behavior by a growing number of truckers means an illegal truck route could easily happen with semi-rigs cutting through the neighborhood.
The other is the fact such a spine road would have to cross the Union Pacific Wye twice. Not only is the railroad not crazy about adding more at-grade crossings but projected increases in freight and passenger trains is likely to impair the truck movement of goods too much.
In a nutshell, the general plan update the City Council has given every indication they will rubber stamp is going to make Airport Way a living hell to drive or live near.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org