The sound of so-called planning experts slapping themselves on the back is actually more grating than the screeching of Jake brakes that Marian Rawlins and her neighbors rightfully fear as should thousands of current and future residents in South Manteca.
Rawlins is fighting “The Machine” that created the problematic sprawl that led to all sorts of ills for California. “The Machine” is the Government Planning-Bank-Developer Complex.
And while Rawlins seems convinced it is all done for the sake of developers and therefore bending to their whims, for the past 50 years California laws and court decisions have tipped the scales heavily in the Government Planning-Bank-Developer Complex toward planning bureaucrats and their merry band of highly paid consultants.
They are the ones that want to build Raymus Expressway repackaged as the less-menacing sounding Raymus Parkway come hell or high water.
Raymus Expressway is the 1961 planning solution to traffic movement that — if you look on a map — will build a convenient “bypass” of the 120 Bypass if it moves forward and connects with the interchange that Mayor Ben Cantu advocates the city build midway between Austin Road and Jack Tone Road.
Why does Cantu favor it? It’s his life’s work. Even though the solution is rooted in 1961 sensibilities and not 2021 it is what he firmly believes is needed for traffic movement so people won’t grab pitchforks as well as tar and feathers to march on city hall in the future because he believes getting to the freeway from their homes will be as frustrating as let’s say trying to get through downtown Manteca today on Main Street.
Is the 1961 inspired solution the right solution?
Take a look at one of the best planned communities — if not the best — in the Great Central Valley four miles west from where Raymus Parkway will connect with McKinley Avenue and then the 120 Bypass.
River Islands at Lathrop is building 15,001 homes on the 4,800-acre Stewart Tract. That ultimately means close to 50,000 people.
There will be — when all is said and done — just three ways to get off the island. One via Bradshaw Crossing (River Islands Parkway), one via a future interchange on Interstate on 205, and one via a future road that will tie into future development north of the MacArthur and I-205 interchange in Tracy. A fourth may exist if Caltrans allows access to Interstate 5 via Mathney Road to continue.
Manteca, assuming they ever build the McKinkley Avenue interchange they are struggling to fund, will have five ways via major thoroughfares to move traffic generated by less homes in a smaller area to reach freeways. It will be six if the Raymus Parkway interchange with a price tag approaching $100 million due to the need to shift Highway 99 to the east is built.
The city — either due to amnesia or a severe shortage of institutional knowledge regarding Manteca among its senior management team of which most never had anything to do with the community a year ago — keeps pushing a roadway that was borne initially to move truck traffic.
It was to connect Tara Business Park — a dream of creating a Hacienda Business Park development that never had a chance of becoming a reality in Manteca — with the envisioned Austin Road Business Park in southeast Manteca.
It was initially rolled out as an expressway that would consist of at least four lanes.
From the start, the city never made it clear where the alignment would go.
It was disingenuous at best. That’s because the community development department proceeded on a piecemeal basis to require developers along the alignment that didn’t exist to leave right-of-way for a four-lane expressway.
This process was never driven by developers who quite frankly would have probably preferred to have used the land set aside the expressway to build more homes.
As a result of not knowing what the city wants but required to provide an exact alignment the city gave them, the developers of the 1,301 home Griffin Park project that has broken ground on South Main Street have two plans for the right-of-way. One is four a four-lane expressway and the other is fa quasi-park/greenbelt if it ends up being two lanes.
Give Mayor Cantu credit for telling staff last month that the time is long overdue for them to say exactly where the expressway should be built.
Don’t hold your breath.
Just 13 years ago Public Works assistant Fredric Clark — before he became community development director — repeatedly reassured rural residents including Rawlins that the expressway likely wouldn’t even be a concern until 2040.
Even in recent years when it was clear growth was happening much faster than anyone at city hall wanted to believe, senior management was holding onto the belief that there was no rush to get an alignment in place to give people certainty.
Rawlins, while clearly not a planner or traffic engineer, knows a thing or two about the habits of Manteca drivers and where they want to go.
It is why Rawlins makes an even stronger case today than she did 10 years ago that the city needs to abandon its drive to build an expensive, questionable, and growth-inducing “parkway”.
Rawlins clearly has struck raw nerves at city hall. Why else did they come up last year with treating the public to a Trojan Horse deception by saying they were pursuing a two-lane parkway for most of the route while intending to seek right-of-way for the piecemeal alignment that would “leave the option” to convert it into four lanes at a later date. In other words, the less menacing sounding road is packaged as a parkway to stifle protests but will turn into an expressway designed for heavy traffic at a later date.
As for promises to ban trucks by not making it a truck route, four-fifths of Manteca already knows the city has no stomach to enforce its existing truck route rules.
Rawlins understands the vast majority of present and future residents are not heading toward Modesto when they leave their homes. They are heading north to shopping, restaurants, schools, medical appointments and such in Manteca. Land zoning and development patterns south of the 120 Bypass re-emphasize that pattern.
If they are heading out-of-town it is to head west to Bay Area jobs or venues.
Then there is the added detail that no developable point south of the 120 Bypass along Airport Way, Union Road, and Main Street is more than 2½ miles from the freeway. It is the same distance as Lathrop Road to the 120 Bypass.
As for east-west traffic flows, there is Atherton Drive.
But the real game changer for Rawlins argument is the first phase of the $153 million Caltrans upgrade of the 120-99 interchange that will replace the existing Austin Road interchange with one that is extremely functional for moving traffic. It renders the Raymus Expressway interchange as a marginally justifiable yet extremely expensive proposition that would suck even more money from pressing Manteca road projects.
Despite the diminishing justification, a clear lack of funds, much more pressing road priorities, and a game changer project the city pushes ever onward like zombies to pursue the Raymus “Expressway” Parkway.
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 email@example.com