One of the last remaining battles over potential paths for the future North County Corridor may be nearing an end, with momentum building for a tie-in with Highway 108 east of Oakdale at Lancaster Road.
Dozens of families in neighborhoods four miles to the west for months have protested the concept of a roundabout at Atlas Road, with the North County Corridor shooting south from that point and paralleling Stearns Road before skirting Oakdale and running between Riverbank and Modesto.
Oakdale officials previously preferred the Atlas tie-in, thinking it might funnel cars near a future shopping center. But that’s changed.
Rather than “putting lives on hold for such a long time, which is really frustrating, we’d like to take action,” Mayor Pat Paul announced at Wednesday’s meeting of leaders from the three cities and from Stanislaus County. “We’d like to go on record that the city of Oakdale would like to pick” the Lancaster option, Paul said.
We’d like to step up and say, “Let people get back to their lives.”
Pat Paul, Oakdale mayor
The council intends to strengthen that resolve with a formal resolution at an Oct. 3 council meeting in Oakdale, the mayor said. At the same time, they would adopt “guiding principles” for the selection, including the fact that the Lancaster option – with hardly any neighbors, compared to Atlas – would sacrifice fewer homes.
“It’s not a binding deal,” said Matt Machado, the county’s public works director, because the California Department of Transportation has authority over final route selection. But the council’s resolve could “give the community assurance of where the city of Oakdale hopefully stands,” he said.
Also Wednesday, leaders learned that key environmental documents on the future expressway should be made public in January. The report will feature loads of information on how the road could affect people, farms and other businesses, depending on which route segments among remaining choices are chosen.
$700 million Estimated cost
Controversy over the road’s western stretch, between Modesto and Riverbank, died down a few years ago as engineers focused on redoing Kiernan Avenue, with legitimate freeway interchanges at McHenry Avenue, Coffee and Oakdale roads, and Roselle Avenue. If Caltrans picks the Lancaster tie-in on the east end, the only unresolved choice would be south of Oakdale, with one option close to the south edge of the city and the other further south, largely focused on Claribel Road.
Leaders of the county and three cities would review the draft environmental study around March, accepting input from the public and seeking consensus among each other. Caltrans’ final route selection could follow in early 2018.
But locals have learned not to hold their breath. The study initially was promised in summer 2015 and has been delayed several times since; the last snag is over local officials’ desire that increased safety be cited as a reason for building the North County Corridor, while state attorneys think such language could cause liability problems.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390