Head south of Manteca beyond where the blue collar pianist swings a hammer tapping out notes created by slamming nails into wood mixing with the heavy metal sound of skill saws to create the familiar song of growth.
If you’re lucky, a slight Delta breeze will rustle the leaves of the almond trees as evening approaches while cows — some say as many as 15,000 — make their way home amid gently waving brush doing the annual chameleon act of transforming from vibrant green to amber.
This is god’s country where the sun can be seen rising over the distant snow-capped Sierra and then setting after illuminating an honest day’s work to back light the Altamont Hills.
This is a land that nature has tried 11 times since 1929 to reclaim as she punctured man’s attempts at keeping the San Joaquin and Stanislaus rivers within unnatural constraints.
Those who have played the generational dance know the land. They know it will flood again. To believe otherwise would be akin to sinking your life savings into a tech start-up that says it has invented a perpetual motion machine.
Yet those far removed from the land have convinced god country’s neighbors to the north — a dairy representative, retired private sector manager, an educator, a retired IT manager, and a store owner — that they should plan the City of Manteca as if will one day it’ll stretch southward until it’s 100,000th home is nestled against the confluence of the Stanislaus and San Joaquin where wine grapes now grow.
If that has you scratching your head and going “huh”, step back from the madness of self-fulfilling prophecy planning for a second.
The never ending stream of flim-flam men — they call them consultants these days — travel from one community switching their olden days transportation mode from the horse drawn wagon to the S-Class Maybach offering their magical elixir of growth planning for a king’s ransom. They astutely read the fears and desires of their benefactors. And if they detect a glimmer of fear, they opt for the easy way out to cobble together $160,000 reports that are simply calculations based on a clean slate of raw, unencumbered land free of farms, small country estates or nasty little impediments such as floodplains.
If you can earn your $160,000 without breaking a sweat, why not?
Then you present your magic elixir that the layman council accepts as the gospel while the paid city staff dutifully starts plugging in the pearls of wisdom into development agreements.
This is how something that is not needed or no longer justified becomes an absolute necessity such as the Raymus Expressway that holds the promise of doing to the southern Manteca countryside what German Sherman did to Georgia as he marched to the sea. This is why the need for the Raymus Expressway is treated like the Holy Grail by those occupying desks at 1001 West Center Street. It is why city staff has instilled the fear of repercussion from the lawsuit gods into the hearts of the council should they dare pull the plug on the Raymus Express.
In the real world, growth won’t happen more than 1.5 miles south of the 120 Bypass due to flood issues that won’t be resolved by spending $165 million for the upgraded 200-year flood protection plan.
Yet the expressway — by dictate of consultants who at best spent 10 hours trying to get a grasp of what has gone on in Manteca for the last 100 years before plugging in numbers — was deemed necessary to move traffic generated from growth that will never happen.
As for those homes that can be built as far south as Sedan Avenue in some spots, they will be no farther than 1.5 miles from an interchange on the 120 Bypass or the same distance a home midway between Union Road and Lathrop Road is to the same freeway.
And since foot dragging at city hall on a development agreement effectively suffocated the job portion of the massive Austin Road Business Park that elected leaders embraced as the next employment Mecca for Manteca, there is no worry about truck traffic. Actually there was never a worry about truck traffic as the expressway — even with minimal intersections — would have a lot more stops than a direct road that was planned to the freeway system from the business park.
The “legal” need for the Raymus Expressway can be neutralized by another traffic study allowing the council legally to lower the level of service for traffic flow during peak periods so that an expressway would not be needed under Manteca’s general plan.
In short, a previous council’s decision back in the liar loan days of housing growth to demand the Lamborghini model instead of the Camry version when it comes to traffic flow and before the state threw down the gauntlet when it comes to building in floodplains no longer makes sense.
What the current council needs now is to not just let go of something that is akin to saving up for a horse and buggy in a world moving toward driverless cars, but to stop cowering before hired municipal staff that is browbeating them into holding onto Raymus Expressway at all costs.
Times have changed. No one can fault the current council for dictating the need for a Raymus Expressway.
Voters can, however, hold them responsible for failing to notice the times have changed making the Raymus Expressway an expensive and destructive proposition that is an unneeded solution for a problem that no longer exists.
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.