August 16, 2014

Highway 132 plans to be shared

An open house will update people on Highway 132 bypass plans, although answers to barium contamination questions could be scarce.

Transportation officials will discuss the next steps for a future Highway 132 bypass west of downtown Modesto at an open house Monday.

It’s not clear how much they will be able to say about an undisclosed plan for dealing with barium contamination in soil along the freeway’s path. A government-sponsored newsletter in June jumped the gun by saying that a trio of contaminated hills will be capped before the four-lane road is built on top, but that decision will be made by another agency after people comment on the plan when it’s unveiled in January.

Some west Modesto neighbors anxious about health risks would prefer that the tainted earth be trucked away, but that could cost too much for a project already expected to run up to $170 million.

Construction is expected to begin in 2016 and take a couple of years, with a final phase to be tackled a decade later.

Local and state officials hope to improve driving west of Highway 99 toward the Bay Area with the bypass, which would parallel Kansas Avenue and replace Maze Boulevard as that section of Highway 132. Elements could include a new crossing and ramps at Highway 99 and an interchange at Carpenter Road.

Like previous public meetings, Monday’s open house will feature maps and information posters, and people can discuss issues having to do with property seizure, road design and environmental studies.

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