Who runs the City of Manteca: High-paid consultants or elected council members?
The answer may come tonight.
The Manteca City Council is going to decide the fate of the alignment of the pie-in-the-sky Raymus Expressway when they meet at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center. Actually, they are going to decide whether there is a new alignment because there is already a line drawn on paper that city staff keeps insisting isn’t an alignment but for all practical purposes it is because Raymus Expressway — for better or worse — is part of the city’s adopted traffic circulation plan. That, however, doesn’t mean it can’t be un-adopted by the city’s policy makers consisting of the five sitting council members. That is their bailiwick. Staff and consultants make recommendations. Elected officials — hopefully with a concern for cost, quality of life, and common sense — make the final decisions.
Last month the council voted to plunk down $92,000 to hire a firm to decide the ultimate alignment of both the dry levee and Raymus Expressway to the southwest of the city. Mayor Steve DeBrum and Councilman Vince Hernandez are thankfully questioning the sanity of that decision. They believe the Raymus Expressway no longer makes sense. As such they want to rescind the part of the contract that calls for alignment work to be done for the Raymus Expressway.
When traffic consultants first whipped up the need for the roadway that was then dubbed McKinley Expressway over 10 years ago, there was no designated 200-year-flood zone with its accompanying state ban on development. That has effectively greatly cut the number of home that can be built to the south reducing the need and significantly increasing the cost per home for an expressway.
There is also the little white lie folks at city hall are bantering about. Residents along Peach and Fig avenues have been led to believe at worst Raymus Expressway will only be two lanes. Then how come the city is holding a bond from a developer to pay his share of the future expressway based on it being six lanes?
In the staff report for tonight’s meeting it says the construction of homes have been conditioned on Raymus Expressway being built. Here’s a dirty little secret. Besides the above mentioned developer who has 520 or so homes in his project, the only other project that has the condition is Austin Road Business Park.
Let’s talk about the business park, shall we? Perhaps someone would like to explain publically to the council about how that project heralded by the city as a powerhouse job generator got derailed.
Mistakes happen. But a funny thing about mistakes that government agencies make: The taxpayers end up taking the hit.
As for consultants, is it really wise to take their word as the gospel? Remember the no left turn from southbound Main to eastbound Yosemite the city put in place in downtown in 1993 because Wal-Mart opened up 10 blocks away? That was the recommendation of a consultant.
And what about the beloved bulb-outs in the 100 block of North Main Street? Do you really think anyone that served or is serving on the council came up with that idea? No, a consultant did. Arguably the best traffic decision in downtown during the past 40 years was making the 100 block of Maple Avenue one way. That came from Willie Weatherford when he was mayor. There was no study. There was no consultant. Five elected council members who actually live in Manteca used their common sense and made that decision without any help or recommendation. Staff then went to work to make Maple Avenue work — no consultant necessary.
Then there is what the mayor alludes to as his “farm boy” common sense. You can’t build Raymus Expressway by collecting Blue Chip Stamps. It’ll cost money. Big money. Just like the McKinley Avenue interchange; the new Highway 99 interchange proposed south of Austin Road; the upgrading of interchanges at Union Road, Main Street, and Airport Way; and the future Lovelace at 99 interchange that a traffic consultant said Manteca needs. There’s always the state, right?
Caltrans has a backlog of deferred maintenance for freeways, highways, and bridges in excess of $59 billion that’s growing by $6 billion a year. Manteca will be lucky if Caltrans is able to spend serious cash by 2022 to fix the death trap on the 120 Bypass due to design issues at the 99-120 interchange and widen the Bypass to six lanes by 2040.
To get state highways up to speed with no expansion projects it will cost $1,000 for every man, woman, and child in California. That is in addition to other “minor” needs like new schools, improved public safety, and bankrolling new state initiatives like the $3.6 billion annual cost the legislative staff said the decision to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour will cost state taxpayers for state government to comply.
The Raymus Expressway is also overkill. There will be no less than four interchanges within three miles of each other on the 120 Bypass to serve South Manteca. Unless Modesto is going to somehow top wages in the Bay Area, at least 60 percent of those future residents will be heading north to the 120 Bypass to go to work or — heaven forbid — catch the ACE train which is also costing money to expand.
There also will be heading north to shop. There is no pressing need for an east-west expressway.
The best plan for Manteca’s future is to kill it.
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 email@example.com or 209.249.3519.