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Truck parking and quality of life in Lathrop
Lathrop High School students going to and from school not only have to dodge busy traffic at the Lathrop Road-Manthey Road intersection but also have to contend with trucks and trailers illegally parked on the road side. The back of one of two semis parked on the west side of southbound Manthey Road in this picture taken last week is visible on the left side of the picture. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

I’ve seen the two trucks parked on the same spot for days. Twice, a few days apart last week, I drove by the intersection where I saw their looming and enormous bright orange metal bodies. They were parked close together, one behind the other, on the west side of Manthey Road just a few feet to the south of the Lathrop Road intersection.

Wednesday last week, I was surprised to see the orange monsters still at the same spot, looking like they have not been moved at all. I pulled over the side of the road on northbound Manthey. It was dismissal time at the high school and many students, on foot and pedal power, were negotiating their way through the intersection. I watched as a car made the turn at the southwest corner of the intersection a few feet from the parked monster trucks and just stopped right there on the road to let a student in while traffic behind her slowed down. Then I saw a pair of smiling female students appear from the same corner and turned south on Manthey where the two trucks were parked. I watched as they made their way, seemingly without care, inches away from the trucks toward the direction of Louise Avenue, their feet landing just about on the solid white line that separated the traffic lane from the shoulder of the roadway. On more than one occasion, while they were walking in front of the parked trucks, vehicles driving by them had to veer toward the center of the road to give them a wide and safe berth.

In the southeast quadrant of the intersection along the freeway onramp is a vacant property. It’s usually filled with trucks parked there, but this time there was just a lone white hauling truck. I was surprised that the two large trucks on the side of the road did not use the relatively safer - whether it’s legal, I’m not sure - site of this vacant lot.

Parked trucks at this spot was not a good idea when this west side of town was just a bucolic, rustic farmland.

It was not a good idea when development started on this side of the young city and the residents were earnestly clamoring for the school district to build what they said was a long-overdue high school campus in this historic railroad town.

And it’s not a good idea more so now that the Lathrop High School is there and Lathrop Road has been extended to the entrance of the new campus located a mere shout away from the San Joaquin River, and traffic has grown increasingly more busy in these areas around Interstate 5 and surrounding thoroughfares.

The fact of the matter is, parked trucks on the side of the road is not a rare sight at this intersection on Lathrop Road and Manthey. And it’s a sight that, unfortunately, has become a familiar part of the urban landscape and not just Lathrop.

Council trying
to find solution

Safety issues and concerns related to truck parking have been raised before the City Council, and I’m sure not just in Lathrop but in scores of towns and cities as well, both large and small. The apparent lack of adequate public and private parking lots for these giant vehicles that keep business moving at commerce centers and, in the process, feed city coffers with vital revenues remain a serious concern for the city.

So much so that for the nth time, the issue is back before the council for more deliberation and, hopefully to find a solution to the problem. The police department and the fire district have provided some vital input into some of the issues, concerns and suggested solutions as launching points for discussion at tonight’s 7 p.m. meeting in the council chambers at City Hall, 390 Towne Center Drive at Mossdale Landing. As some cities like Ripon, which is home to private truck parking lots as the Flying J Plaza and LUVs on Jack Tone Road along Highway 99, have found out, these business outfits are necessary evils. For while they provide a vital service to everyone concerned, they have also become magnets to all forms of crime elements such as prostitution.

Hauling trucks though are not a problem per se, as former Lathrop mayor and current city planning commissioner Bennie Gatto, often pointed out during prior council discussions about this perennial problem. Without them, people would not have the convenience and luxury of buying their basic needs at their neighborhood stores, he argued.

However, it also appears that Lathrop’s leaders and residents are not going to tolerate any unsavory elements in their city anymore. Case in point, the city has now taken on an aggressive stance against graffiti problems as part of an ongoing effort to boost quality of life in the city. A stricter amendment to the city’s municipal code was adopted by the City Council to send a message to crime perpetrators that they mean business.