Opinion Columns & Blogs

The beginning of the end for “Blood Alley”

By Terry Withrow

In 1956, the California Highway Commission approved the realignment of State Route 132 West and then purchased almost all the land required to build it between Highway 99 and Gates Road. Today, over 60 years later, we celebrate a groundbreaking ceremony signifying the beginning of construction of this project.

A long time in the making, this project, when completed, will be the answer to many prayers. The existing route, a two-lane undivided rural road, is used by trucks to bring goods and services to and from our agricultural businesses and other industries along with commuters who make the daily trip to jobs in the Bay Area. For decades, this route has been plagued by miles of congested stop-and-go traffic along with extreme speeds on a road that was never designed for that kind of capacity. In addition, its multiple stop lights and proximity — passing within feet of residences, elementary schools, churches and businesses — has been a recipe for disaster. In fact, over the last 60 years, hundreds of people have been killed or injured on this highway.

The new alignment will relieve traffic congestion by creating a new connection with downtown Modesto, separating local traffic from interregional traffic. It will also dramatically improve safety by creating a new median-separated roadway. The new alignment will promote a more livable community along portions of the old route which will be relinquished upon the opening of the new segment. As it comes off Highway 99 and heads west, the project will be below grade and go under Carpenter Road and Rosemore, coming back up to grade at Dakota.

As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” This project is being completed in phases. The design is complete, and funding is in place for the first phase which gets us to Dakota. Additional phases are in the works and will eventually take us all the way out to Gates Road with a four-lane, median-divided highway. Thanks to voters of Stanislaus County, Measure L was passed in 2016. This provided a much-needed funding source and the opportunity for leveraging additional state and federal funding. The fact that we are finally starting this project, having it shovel-ready, has been and will continue to allow us to be a priority as additional funds become available.

Projects of this magnitude will always create temporary burdens, but benefits for the community will soon be realized. While any project may have its detractors, we must remember the safety and mobility of our residents is paramount. The Stanislaus Council of Governments Policy Board, made up of 16 elected officials from throughout the county, along with staff, have worked tirelessly to make this project work for everyone. In the end, time will tell if we’ve accomplished this.

I want to thank all who have made this day finally come to fruition. Your efforts and courage to persevere, when it would have been so easy to just let it sit on the books for another 60 years, will not be forgotten by the residents of Stanislaus County.