OAKDALE -- Imagine driving from Oakdale, past Riverbank, Modesto and through Salida to Highway 99 in 20 minutes.
It's more than a dream for a tenacious group of representatives from those cities, Stanislaus County and a regional governing body that are banding together to fund a $150,000 study of an expressway across northern Stanislaus County.
Monday night, Oakdale City Council members agreed to put $30,000 toward the study. Today, Stanislaus County supervisors will consider doing the same thing. The rest of the group will decide at meetings later this month.
After more than 50 years of talk about an Oakdale Bypass that would take traffic around Oakdale rather than forcing it through the city, local officials watched the California Transportation Commission use Oakdale Bypass funds to build a Highway 99-Whitmore Avenue interchange in Ceres and on other projects in Southern California. The commission said it would return the money in 2008 if the California Department of Transportation and the Stanislaus Council of Governments can define the project and iden-tify the cost.
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The department's demand and the years of stagnation leading up to it inspired Oakdale, Modesto, Riverbank, the county and StanCOG to show that northern Stanislaus County needs an expressway.
"In case the state is getting cold feet about the Oakdale Bypass, we think the corridor is an excellent option," said Oakdale City Manager Steve Hallam.
Four to six lanes
Representatives began looking into routes that would best serve the region as well as each city. Although the expressway's specific route is still under consideration, it's generally thought of as a four- to six-lane thoroughfare from the Hammett Road interchange at Highway 99 east past Oakdale, Hallam said.
Three main options with a few variations were considered in a feasibility study. Information from that study will be used in the one being voted on this month, which will cut costs in half, Oakdale Mayor Farrell Jackson said.
The corridor would provide businesses in Oakdale's south industrial area direct access to Highway 99, which could help attract businesses to the city,Jackson said.
Oakdale residents have been waiting years to see a bypass near the city. Caltrans took five acres from Joy Bloomingcamp in 1955, she said at Monday's meeting. Jackson hopes the regional effort will help get a bypass done.
"When you have the entire county talking to Caltrans, you have a lot more clout than the city of Oakdale," Jackson said.
Stanislaus County supervisors are scheduled to vote today on whether to fund the study. That meeting starts at 9 a.m. at 1010 10th Street.
StanCOG is scheduled to consider funding the study at its Nov. 14 meeting.
Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at 578-2382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.