The battle for Manteca is on.
It is being fought among almond orchards and small rural estates of five acres or less south of urbanized Manteca.
What is at stake is simple: Will Manteca stay Manteca or will it warp into a version of the Modesto sprawl but one where only those with paychecks more sizeable than those in the valley can afford to live?
The enemy is smart. Darn smart.
They are highly educated and found a way to cash in on the California Environmental Quality Act and a host of textbook planning initiatives churned out by legislators hell-bent on making every dream of environmental perfectionists and Buck Rogers planning groupies come true. They are consultants.
They are the ones working in concert with career bureaucrats to devise policies and draw lines on maps that they then present to elected leaders as the gospel of ideal planning.
This is how Manteca got the doozy of a traffic circulation plan for future growth without first determining how big it wants to be or setting a budget.
Actually, that is what is wrong with almost all civic planning in the Golden State. No one ever sets a real growth cap whether it is the overall number of residential units ultimately that should be allowed or the maximum land mass of a city. They also plan not by a budget or how much residents present and future can stomach but by what their eyes want.
As a result, cities often end up biting off more than they can chew.
Typically cities ultimately try and pick and choose among the smorgasbord of planning scenarios that consultants whip up. In Manteca’s case, elected leaders went for the whole hog after having been convinced the best planning is textbook planning.
Raymus Expressway is textbook planning. It is designed as the start of a semi-loop to curve through almond orchards, vineyards, and dairies starting at McKinley Avenue at the 120 Bypass, dipping to a southern point crossing Highway 99 and swinging back northward toward East Highway 120 east of Austin Road. It is essentially a loaded gun pointed at the farmland east of Austin Road.
It was sold, however, as an essential element for sound development of the southwest quadrant of Manteca as defined by Highway 99 on the east and the 120 Bypass on the north.
It is why grumbling is starting among planning elitists about the blasphemous position that at least two council members — Mayor Steve DeBrum and Councilman Vince Hernandez — have taken to pull the plug on the Raymus Expressway.
If it is yanked, the argument goes, it will disrupt planned traffic patterns in southwest Manteca and force the city to rethink things and require developers to super-size the planned streets that remain since growth was predicated on Raymus Expressway being built.
Before anyone buys that line, let’s look at the extensive — and very expensive — road system that still remains on the table even if Raymus Expressway is yanked.
Once the $40 million McKinley interchange goes in Manteca will have four major interchanges within three miles. It will take at least an additional $45 million in upgrades on the three remaining interchanges if the most cost efficient alternative — diverging diamonds — are pursued at Airport Way, Union Road and Main Street.
Toss Atherton Drive’s extension south of Woodward Avenue into the mix and nowhere south of the 120 Bypass will there be a home built that isn’t a half mile of a major four-lane road — with some targeted to become six lanes — that connects with the 120 Bypass.
Even without Raymus Expressway the farthest a future resident of a home south of Woodward Avenue would be from the 120 Bypass would be less than two miles.
That’s less the distance from Lathrop Road south to the 120 Bypass.
It is not a hideous distance.
If future homeowners are so impatient because they have to navigate six to 10 signalized intersections before they reach the bypass, then maybe the city should start encouraging developers to build homes with pads for helicopters.
Hernandez is right. For traffic planning Raymus Expressway is “overkill.”
DeBrum is also right. The city can’t afford Raymus Expressway and everything else they need/want.
Manteca doesn’t need Raymus Expressway unless the ultimate goal is to lay the groundwork for a city of 200,000.
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.