Since 1849 when valley paths expanded into well-worn dirt roads heading toward the mines, strategically placed thoroughfares have been growth inducing in California where mobility and lifestyle are interchangeable concepts.
That is why it is laughable— in a tragic way — as to what is now unfolding in rural South Manteca regarding the future extension of McKinley Avenue as an expressway running between the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 midway between Ripon and Manteca.
A quite reasonable question has been asked of the city: Who is pushing for the road?
The answer coming back from the staff is basically, “no one, but it is necessary for good planning.”
That answer is true but is also a self-fulfilling prophecy. The farmers don’t want the road. The rural residents don’t want the road. No developer owns land along the alignment beyond Austin Road Business Park — at least not yet. But rest assured once the alignment is drawn officially on a map the idea that McKinley Avenue is perfect to build toward will get wheels, as they say.
California planning — especially since World War II — has been in piranha mode for the most part. It simply goes forward with the single-minded focus on textbook planning and the fact you have to plan for growth as you have no choice since not doing so is planning for failure.
In the case of McKinley Avenue, though, who is it a failure for? It is certainly not the people who don’t want the road. And there isn’t a developer who is going to be put in a world of hurt about not being to develop their property to the fullest.
And how do we know that a McKinley Avenue expressway is the best way to serve future growth? That’s easy, because it will encourage growth patterns that will lead to housing eventually reaching it and going beyond providing, of course, the city addresses a nagging issue about flood protection. But it is one dimensional at best as such proposals are always studied in terms of doing the project — building the expressway — or not building the expressway.
So what is a city to do? They are caught between a rock and a hard place. They do really need to plan but in doing so by text book planning which involves drawing lines on maps to provide the shortest connection between two points for traffic to move they aren’t taking into account people, lives, and protecting agriculture.
Well, there is an obvious alternative and it isn’t widening the Highway 120 Bypass as some rural residents say to do as that roadway will become clogged even more in the coming years with growth in nearby Modesto, Stockton and to the east along the Highway 120 corridor generating more commuters and the need to move goods.
Atherton Drive crosses every major north-south street — McKinley, Airport Way, Union Road, and Main Street — plus it will swing south toward Ripon into the heart of the 1,037-acre Austin Road Business Park that is moving forward.
The McKinley Avenue is one possibility that represents good planning by extending wide arterials going north and south to meet it. Also representing good planning is to having those same arterials widen as they go from rural roads and get closer to Atherton.
Atherton Drive already is a semi-expressway from Union Road to Woodward Avenue. All the city has to do is to continue that pattern as it heads south where it could easily T-intersect complete with two left turn lanes with the street leading to the proposed Highway 99 interchange south of Austin Road.
Yes, that would create a situation where people would be tempted to use rural roads as short cuts but here’s a novel idea. Why not cul-de-sac future development on east-west streets within the city limits making it impossible for short cuts to develop unless motorists drive all the way south to West Ripon Road, which they won’t do because it would be out of the way and longer?
It is doubtful that rural residents will complain that they have to travel farther to reach a new commercial center in the Austin Road Business Park if it means not having to worry about a flood of unwanted traffic on their rural roads.
It is time to end the Stepford Wives approach to planning. Manteca’s City Council needs to assume a policy making role that is proactive instead of reactive and instruct staff to rethink future traffic and growth patterns in south Manteca.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.