Opinion

David Leamon: Cooperative plan by county, city paves way for future of Highway 132

Project map
Project map

The state highway system was designed to move people and products efficiently, helping to make California’s economy one of the greatest in the world.

Whether transporting people from their home to their job, or vegetables from the San Joaquin Valley to Southern California, highways make it happen.

Highway 132, which transports commuters, truck drivers and travelers as they depart Modesto and begin their journey to the Bay Area, has been virtually unchanged for 85 years. The highway from the city of Modesto to Gates Road started as a two-lane state highway in 1933, and it remains two lanes — despite dramatic population growth, an increase in trucking and the daily crush as legions of commuters drive to their Bay Area jobs.

The traffic congestion experienced by these commuters can be unbearable. But this is changing, thanks to a cooperative gameplan by Stanislaus County and the City of Modesto.

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The County has started environmental work on its Dakota Avenue to Gates Road Project, a four-lane freeway that will transport vehicles and cyclists the six miles from Dakota to Gates. When that road opens in 2027, it will connect to Highway 132 West – a City of Modesto project – and provide a four-lane route from Highway 99 west to Gates Road.

Residents were introduced to this project Oct. 10, 2018, during a two-hour meeting hosted by Stanislaus County and Caltrans at Franklin School in west Modesto. The public meeting featured maps of the region and the route alternatives being considered, while display boards included descriptions of the project, environmental studies to be done, and the project schedule and financing.

Those who were unable to attend the meeting can view all of this material and more on the project web site at www.dot.ca.gov/d10/x-project-sr132dakotatogates.html.

Public comments also were taken at the meeting, and the opportunity remains for residents to express an opinion through Oct. 25. Comments should be sent to Jennifer Lugo, Branch Chief, Central Sierra Environmental Analysis Branch, 855 M Street, Suite 200, Fresno, CA 93721, or by email to jennifer.lugo@dot.ca.gov.

The project plan has four alternatives, though one thing is guaranteed: Highway 132, as we know it, will be transformed. The City of Modesto’s Highway 132 West Project will create a new route from Highway 99/Kansas Avenue to Dakota Avenue, shifting Highway 132 north from its location on Maze Boulevard.

Phase 1 of that project is expected to start in 2019, while Phase 2 begins in 2026 and is expected to be completed in 2028. That’s significant, because Phase 2 expands that route to four lanes: Those lanes will flow into The County’s four-lane Highway 132 Dakota Avenue to Gates Road Project, which is scheduled to break ground in 2025 and be completed in 2027.

That will mean four lanes from Highway 99 to Gates Road, a route designed to meet the needs of our community well into the future.

The County’s project could build the new route adjacent to existing Highway 132/Maze Boulevard or it could mirror Kansas Avenue — blazing a new trail west to Gates Road.

Construction estimates range from $78 million to $143 million, depending on the alignment. A range of costs is typical during planning, until detailed studies are done and the preferred alternative selected.

Because the project’s timeline extends to 2027, the county has created and will continually update a website to keep residents informed as work proceeds. Please visit www.dot.ca.gov/d10/x-project-sr132dakotatogates.html for additional information and to view the four routes under consideration.

Stanislaus County will supplement its website with e-mail, social media, traditional media such as newspapers and television, and with boots on the ground: Delivering updates direct to local residents.

If you’d like to be on that mailing list, please e-mail Caltrans’ Rick Estrada at Rick.Estrada@dot.ca.gov. For additional information, you may also send an e-mail to Caltrans District 10 at District10PublicAffairs@dot.ca.gov.

David Leamon is Public Works Director for Stanislaus County

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