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Getting Lathrop Road onto the right path
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Lathrop Road is a mess and is likely to get a loss worse.
That is something most everyone will agree on.
What everyone doesn’t agree on is what Lathrop Road should be. And we’re not just talking about whether it should be a truck route or even a STAA (Surface Truck Assistant Act) route for larger trucks.
It is obvious what decisions set in motion years ago intend Lathrop Road to be four lanes from Interstate 5 to Highway 99. Not only are there major interchanges at each end but well over $30 million was invested to put wide four-lane bridges across the Union Pacific railroad tracks.
What isn’t obvious is how it will get to that point and whether it will do so in an orderly fashion.
Before touching on Manteca’s proposed initiative to look at truck movements primarily on Lathrop Road as well as elsewhere in the city that could be described fairly as deciding to study whether to close the barn door after all the cows are already out, there are dynamics pertaining to the corridor that need to be addressed.
This is a prime example of a once former rural road morphing toward expressway status on a piecemeal basis. Near the middle is an abundance of land — particularly in Lathrop — that has historic industrial uses with new business parks emerging. There is the Union Pacific Railroad intermodal facility for truck-to-train movements already authorized to increase its volume 2.5 times.
There is also a wild card in the deck — Sharpe Depot. The odds are one day perhaps 20 years or more down the road part or all of it could develop for private sector uses.
In Manteca there is zoning for commercial and other uses atop the new interchange that has Delta College chomping at the bit to sell the school farm to developers. Heading west it is a mixture of subdivisions contained behind sound walls, older homes fronting Lathrop Road commercial, and — as you near the Lathrop city limits — areas zoned for smaller business parks.
In Lathrop a healthy commercial area already exists by the freeway. Then it is a series of homes facing the road, walled in subdivisions, a park, and pure industrial zoning.
It should be emphasized that Manteca stepping up to take a coordinated look with Lathrop regarding truck movements on Lathrop Road as well as those throughout the city is a good thing. Municipal staff and leaders could take the easy way out and just continue how the city has approached Lathrop Road quality of life issues for the last 30 years which is basically let it evolve.
That includes allowing trucks down Lathrop Road with no weight limits imposed.
It also includes not having a detailed Lathrop Road corridor development plan — medians and such — that take into account pedestrian, bicyclist, and motorist safety for a road that is clearly a borderline expressway that means higher speeds than one would expect down Louise Avenue.
Acting City Manager Greg Showerman made an obvious observation that needs to be expanded upon. Lathrop Road does not exist in a vacuum.
Roth Road is clearly the in and out point for CenterPoint Business Park and UP’s intermodal facility located in the county’s jurisdiction sandwiched between Lathrop and Manteca.
The odds are good once the intermodal facility is expanded and train traffic picks up blocking the Roth Road crossing for long periods that some truck traffic may end up heading down Airport Way to take Lathrop Road to reach Interstate 5 instead of waiting for 15 or more minutes.
And the chances of drivers taking a load out of the UP facility that want to reach Highway 99 may do so using Airport Way and Lathrop Road.
It is why both cities need to have truck routes not only designated but clearly marked.
As for Lathrop Road being a truck route or even a STAA truck route that needs to be weighed in context with safety and regional economic considerations, street standards need to reflect the adopted reality and that includes admitting the minimum status Lathrop Road is developing as an expressway of source.
As for the City of Manteca being in bed with the trucking industry, guess again. Truckers have their own set of stories they can tell you where the city has created situations that have been less than optimum. It usually occurs by clinging to premiers of community development instead of consulting with the people who move virtually all of the goods that keeps the economy rolling from providing household needs to jobs. It is no different than relying solely on cookie cutter designs when approving new development without paying attention to people who are already here and trying to traverse roads.
Contacting the California Trucking Association to provide a contact list of trucking firms that operate in and around Manteca as well as independent truckers so they can be gathered to discuss safety and traffic issues and such as they pertain to Manteca might be more than educational for everyone including staff and residents.
And having truckers hear what the local concerns are might lead to a better outcome than planners simply plugging in standards and rules as if the world is clay that can be shaped in a vacuum.