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Freeway envisioned north of Modesto draws federal money

Hylee Griffith of Oakdale takes a photo of a map at an open house meeting for the future North County Corridor at the Gene Bianchi Community Center, Oakdale, Sept. 7, 2017.
Hylee Griffith of Oakdale takes a photo of a map at an open house meeting for the future North County Corridor at the Gene Bianchi Community Center, Oakdale, Sept. 7, 2017. gstapley@modbee.com

Federal highway officials approved a $20 million grant for the North County Corridor, a future expressway skirting Modesto, Riverbank and Oakdale in north Stanislaus County.

The road is expected to cost $688 million and will require additional funding. State transportation officials are expected to pinpoint the exact route in coming months, and construction could be a few years away.

The project was one of only four in California drawing BUILD money, formerly known as TIGER grants; BUILD stands for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development. The US Department of Transportation gave the same or lesser amounts in this round to projects in San Francisco, Kern County and Imperial County.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and others gave credit to Measure L for landing the Stanislaus grant. Approved by voters throughout the county two years, the “self-help” transportation tax enables officials to leverage such federal money by pledging some local proceeds.

“HUGE win for the Central Valley!” tweeted Paul Van Konynenburg, a Modesto businessman and member of the California Transportation Commission. He praised Feinstein and outgoing Rep. Jeff Denham for helping to land the money.

A year ago, officials from Modesto, Oakdale, Riverbank and the county joined to recommend a path for the expressway, which could be endorsed soon by Caltrans.

Supporters anticipate faster, smoother-flowing traffic and more business opportunities, while others frown at sacrificing 100 homes and three dozen businesses now in the way. The government would pay owners fair market value and help relocate those displaced.

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