Patterson agrees to split the cost of rebuilding roads used by business park traffic

Stanislaus County and Patterson will combine funding to reconstruct two roads that are taking a beating from trucks serving the city’s business parks.

The Patterson City Council approved an agreement Tuesday to split the cost of rebuilding a 1,900-foot section of Sperry Avenue near Interstate 5 and a 2.5-mile stretch of Rogers Road, from Zacharias Road to Highway 33. Mayor Luis Molina did not participate in the 4-0 vote because he left the meeting early.

Patterson has aggressively developed business parks for distribution centers and even is making a pitch for the coveted Tesla Motors battery factory. One downside is the wear and tear on roads that were built for agricultural vehicles – not the large trucks that haul products in and out of Patterson.

County leaders hear complaints from residents about the poor condition of Rogers Road, which is used by warehouse employees and trucks making deliveries to eastern Stanislaus County, officials said. Also in need of major work is Sperry Avenue, from Rogers to Interstate 5.

The road sections are in the county jurisdiction and need about $1.75 million in improvements.

“We hope it’s the start of good things to come in terms of city and county cooperation on road and infrastructure projects,” City Manager Rod Butler said.

The first project, costing $900,000, will replace failing sections of Rogers Road and reinforce the entire roadway to handle truck traffic. The county hopes to seek bids from contractors soon and complete the work by early November.

The county will fund 70 percent of the Rogers project, or $630,000, with local and state maintenance funds. A city report said $270,000 will be charged to a community facilities district to be created for the Arambel Business Park. The industrial area on Rogers Road is the site for a 1.5 million-square-foot distribution center planned by Restoration Hardware.

The city will bear 70 percent of the Sperry reconstruction, estimated to cost $850,000, by pulling $595,000 from its street fund. The county will cover $255,000 of the work, scheduled for summer 2015.

After the road is reconstructed for trucks, the next step is upgrading the Sperry and I-5 interchange. Plans include a wider Sperry Avenue and California Aqueduct bridge, signals at the interchange, and wider ramps and turn lanes. Patterson and the county are expected to share the costs for what could be $15 million in interchange improvements.

To pay for its share, the city has charged mitigation fees to the business park developers and collects yearly assessments from property owners in the west Patterson industrial area, city engineer Ken Irwin said. Officials have said the county can use development fee revenue from Diablo Grande for the upgrades, which are likely five years away.

Some claim that Patterson has not charged enough fees to developers to fund road improvements.

Butler said the city’s traffic impact fees – as low as 7 cents a square foot for certain industrial projects – don’t tell the whole story. The city also receives annual payments from community facility districts established for the business parks and can use that to support bonds that finance road projects, he said.

County board Chairman Jim DeMartini, whose district includes Patterson, said the city is creating jobs with the Amazon.com and Restoration Hardware centers but is giving too many breaks to developers. “We appreciate the cost-sharing, but this is just going to be the beginning of Patterson’s problems,” DeMartini said. “There has to be a reasonable amount of impact fees for road improvements. The trucks tear up the roads and you have to construct the roads better for trucks.”

He said Baldwin and Zacharias roads are wearing out, and the traffic worsens a visibility problem where Rogers Road meets Highway 33, near a curve in the highway.

As for the Tesla battery plant, which would be a huge prize for the county, Butler confirmed the city and Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, sent a letter to the governor’s office saying land is available in the Arambel Business Park for the 10 million-square-foot factory, expected to employ 6,500 workers. By offering tax breaks, Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to convince Tesla to make batteries for its electric cars in California.

Other sites in California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas are being considered.

Butler said Thursday the city is not talking with Tesla representatives, but “I think there have been discussions between (local) property owners and Tesla.”