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Hilmar residents get a look at top two Hwy. 165 reroute plans

Hilmar residents get a look at top two Hwy. 165 reroute plans


POSTED April 30, 2010 11:54 p.m.

The future of Highway 165 became a bit clearer Wednesday evening, as two preferred routes for the rerouted arterial were unveiled at a community meeting in Hilmar.

Alternatives D2/D4 and I2 would each diverge from the existing State Route 165 south of the Merced River, skirt to the east of Hilmar, and directly connect to Highway 99 at their northern terminus.

But their paths differ, with D2/D4 maintaining a more direct north/south path after a short northeastern jog following the Merced River. Comparatively, alternative I2 weaves its way through farmland as it curves east to meet the Bradbury Road interchange.

Both suggested routes are projected to alleviate problems with the current Highway 165 — the stretch of Lander Avenue that cuts through Hilmar to connect Highway 99 and Highway 140. Each new route is expected to reduce traffic congestion, cut down on accidents, and ease the deleterious impacts of truck traffic on Hilmar’s downtown businesses — all while improving traffic circulation for drivers throughout the region.

The two preferred routes were selected from a list of 19 total alternatives, developed as a result of input received during a similar community meeting which took place a year ago.

“With 19 alternatives there had to be a rational way to evaluate and compare the alternatives against one another,” said Joe Weiland, principal with Omni-Means and lead planner on the SR165 project.

In conjunction with project partners Merced and Stanislaus counties, CalTrans, the Stanislaus County Council of Governments, the Merced County Association of Governments and the City of Turlock, Weiland developed a weighted matrix to evaluate each alternative.

Studies were preformed to project how each alternative might perform, and potential routes were ranked on criteria such as congestion improvements, safety increase, environmental impacts and cost. Researchers looked to assess not just whether an alternative could move additional trucks, for example, they sought to quantify the potential reduction in traffic time compared to the existing State Route 165.

“The outcome of this whole process was that two alternatives floated to the top,” Weiland said.

Alternatives D2/D4 and I2 tied for first place on the matrix, but each had its strengths and weaknesses.

D2/D4 is projected to take a middle-of-the-road approach, being consistently good in several areas — ranking fourth in improved access to Highway 99, third in local traffic circulation, fourth in right of way impacts and eighth in goods movement. The I2 alternative, conversely, split first place finishes in safety, right of way impacts, and design standards with low showings of eighth in improved access to Highway 99, 16th in traffic circulation and 18th in goods movement.

Both of the preferred alternatives face potential issues in the area of environmental impacts, tying for 12th.

Community members present at Wednesday’s meeting seemed to prefer the D2/D4 alignment, suggesting that it would have less impact on farming operations. The I2 plan cuts through more large plots of land, separating farmland from existing sources of irrigation water.

The D2/D4 alignment also appeared more convenient for freeway access, residents said.

A final route won’t be selected for some time yet, planners said, with construction not set to begin until 2017 at the earliest. Project scoping, the current phase of the development, should wrap up this year, while the environmental review process may run through 2014.

“There’s still a lot of work to go before we finish the project,” Weiland said.

No funding has been identified for the process to obtain right of way, design the highway, or for construction, which preliminary estimates project could cost $200 million.

The large cost comes in part due to a new bridge over the Merced River, required by both preferred alternatives. Another large chunk of funding would be needed for a new interchange with Highway 99 in the D2/D4 plan, near the existing Youngstown Road and W. Harding Road, while in the I2 plan the existing Bradbury Road interchange would be overhauled.

The site of that Highway 99 interchange is crucial to the City of Turlock’s future. Turlock plans to grow its boundaries south, but such growth would require a new Highway 99 interchange at or near Golf Road.

Fortunately for the City of Turlock, either of the preferred routes would work with that growth plan, according to Turlock Planning Manager Debbie Whitmore.

The proposed D2/D4 interchange is close enough to Golf Road to work with Turlock’s growth plan, Whitmore said, while the Bradbury Road interchange overhaul is far enough away from Turlock that CalTrans would likely allow a new interchange near Golf Road.

“From a technical standpoint, those are both viable alternatives,” Whitmore said.

For more information or to comment on the project, visit www.mcagov.org, e-mail sr165comment@benderrosenthal.com or call Bob Morrison, Project Manager, at (916) 978-4900.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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