Should Modesto’s plan for a Highway 132 bypass be first in line for regional money raised by the new Measure L transportation tax?
Some expected a debate over that question on Wednesday among leaders throughout Stanislaus County. Instead, they struggled over the wisdom of starting with a two-lane expressway when it might be possible – and less costly, in the long run – to build four lanes all at once.
Can we start construction of both (phases) at the same time?
Richard O’Brien, Riverbank mayor
“You’d be saving a heck of a lot of money” by aiming high with four lanes, said Richard O’Brien, mayor of Riverbank.
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A draft environmental impact report – the expensive and critical pre-construction study, to be finalized later this year – covers all four lanes, and parts addressing just two could be amended without much trouble, some said at Wednesday’s meeting of the Stanislaus Council of Governments.
Although tempted to go large, leaders ultimately decided it’s best to stick with only two lanes for now, one in each direction.
$28 million State money for Highway 132 bypass that could be in jeopardy if construction doesn’t start soon
$82 millionCost for phase 1, with construction to begin in 2018 and finish in 2020
$132 millionCost for phase 2, which could begin in 2026 and finish in 2028
$214 millionTotal price
The main reason: Modesto likely would lose $28 million in state funding granted on condition that construction begin soon and wrap up by 2020, because amending studies would delay that start.
“You won’t make that deadline,” outreach consultant Kendall Flint told leaders. “You can get something in the ground, or walk away now and pray.”
The first two-lane phase is expected to cost $82 million. Phase 2, adding two lanes, would cost an additional $132 million, for a total of $214 million.
Another reason: Going too fast could sacrifice a few homes west of North Dakota Avenue and south of Kansas Avenue, on the bypass’ west end. The houses will be spared if the new road is just two lanes but would be razed if leaders go for all four at once. And they’re holding onto hope that by the time they’re ready to add a third and fourth lane, they’ll find enough money to miss those houses by extending the alignment paralleling Kansas Avenue another five miles, to connect with Highway 132 near Gates Road.
I drive it every day and it’s like the wild, wild West out there. I’m just amazed there are not more fatalities. It’s unbelievable how people drive on that road, just crazy.
Mike Van Winkle, Waterford mayor
“This has been 50 years in the making,” said Terry Withrow, a county supervisor. “We’re that close. To get weak-kneed at this point ...”
Others on StanCOG’s policy board agreed and gave their executive director, Rosa Park, authority to negotiate with Modesto a prioritizing agreement for proceeds from Measure L. Shoppers throughout the county began paying the extra half-cent sales tax April 1, and allocations from the state should start rolling in this summer.
This is necessary to secure Modesto’s position in the knowledge that we’re moving forward.
Bill Zoslocki, Modesto councilman
Modesto wants a formal commitment for $10 million needed for the city to contract with an engineering firm. The expressway’s design is 30 percent done, and the money would complete the job.
Measure L drew 71 percent approval from voters throughout the county in November. Shoppers will pay 5 cents for something priced at $10, 50 cents for a $100 item, and so on, raising about $960 million over 25 years, or $38 million a year. And Measure L will help city and county leaders leverage hundreds of millions of dollars more, they say, in state and federal money that’s not available to counties without so-called self-help taxes.
A spending plan tells how proceeds will be spent: half on local streets, 10 percent on signals and intersections, 5 percent for bicycle and pedestrian projects, and 7 percent on buses, trains and senior and disability travel. The remaining 28 percent is earmarked for regional projects, including the Highway 132 bypass and future North and South County Corridors.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390
People interested in serving on the Measure L citizens oversight committee can print an application at www.modbee.com and send by May 31 to StanCOG, 1111 I St., Suite 308, Modesto 95354. Call 209-525-4600 for details. Leaders will choose one person living in an unincorporated area of Stanislaus County and one from each of its nine cities. Additionally, Modesto will create its own panel to track spending and may select a member as its representative on the countywide committee.