Transportation leaders agree to pay more to North County Corridor consultant

gstapley@modbee.comMay 14, 2014 

Transportation leaders on Wednesday grudgingly agreed to pay a consultant $391,000 more to keep plans on track for the future North County Corridor.

When Drake Haglan & Associates replaced another firm last summer, a $3 million contract assumed that the company would prepare comprehensive “historic record evaluations” on 32 of 571 properties that might be affected by the future expressway, between Tully Road in northeast Modesto and Highway 108 east of Oakdale. Officials knew that those 32 were home to structures such as houses and barns, requiring more analysis than fields or orchards.

Someone apparently counted wrong. Upon further review, 168 full evaluations are needed.

“I get the sense that this authority board is not real crazy about these (contract) amendments,” said Bill O’Brien, a Stanislaus County supervisor and chairman of the North County Corridor Expressway Authority. The panel is composed of representatives from the county, Modesto, Riverbank and Oakdale.

Leaders years ago agreed to pay Drake Haglan’s predecessor, Jacobs Engineering, $5.8 million for key environmental studies. The total tab since has risen to about $11 million; draft studies should start circulating in October.

O’Brien said leaders have little choice, and the panel majority agreed in a 4-1 vote. Dissenting was his uncle, Riverbank Mayor Richard O’Brien.

State transportation officials are expected to pick an exact path for the expressway in 2016, and construction could begin in 2020 if leaders can secure enough money to start on the $400 million project. Until then, hundreds of property owners are waiting to see what might happen to their ranchettes, businesses and farms.

Robert Lawrence of east Oakdale questioned plans for roundabouts at the road’s east end, including where it would tie into Highway 120.

North Modesto grower Frank Bavaro said he’s concerned about future frontage roads that could “chop up” his fields, making it difficult to farm. Officials must build dozens of those roads so people can get in and out of their properties, because they won’t be able to jump on the limited-access expressway.

Colt Esenwein, the county’s deputy Public Works director, said people who want to see how the North County Corridor might affect their land, depending on which alignment is chosen, can visit a county website, type in a street address and instantly obtain fine details. Go to http://bit.ly/1iNKTQ2.

County transportation officials will present updates on the North County Corridor at the following public meetings: today, Stanislaus County Planning Commission; June 24, Riverbank City Council; July 2, Oakdale Planning Commission; and July 7, Oakdale City Council.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or (209) 578-2390.

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