A new bridge over the Tuolumne River linking Faith Home Road and Garner Road in Modesto will do much to alleviate traffic congestion in Ceres and help Turlock residents commuting north, a consultant told a public gathering in Ceres on Dec. 11.
The project is in the middle of environmental study but one of the biggest obstacles is finding the estimated $100 million to build the project. A connection stretching from Garner Road to Highway 99 could cost $180 million.
A small crowd attended the public meeting at the Ceres Community Center with city staff, councilmembers Mike Kline and Channce Condit and Planning Commissioner Couper Condit in attendance. Some living along Faith Home Road who say they will be impacted also came to learn more about the project.
County and city of Ceres planners first began talking about a Garner-Faith Home connection prior to 2004.
“This project has been in the works for a long time,” said Chris Brady of the county Public Works Department and the project manager. He said it is vital for the movement of goods and commuters in the region.
The connection northeast of Ceres would alleviate congestion on Mitchell Road and the Mitchell Road Bridge which carries about 80,000 vehicles each day. The proposed bridge has been considered a high priority of the county for at least 25 years and was listed as a Priority 1 project in the Stanislaus Area Association of Governments 1990 Expressway Study. The expressway would provide a key link to the east sides of Ceres and Modesto and provide a direct link to Riverbank and Oakdale to southbound Highway 99. The bridge would also help commuters who live in northeast Modesto who work in Turlock, and vice versa.
Engineer of Craig Chatelain of TYLin International explained that once funding is secured, the project could go to final design by 2020 and start construction as early as 2023 as a two-lane structure. The project is currently undergoing environmental planning which should be completed in June.
“This project – a new bridge over the Tuolumne River – is supposed to kind of close the gap between SR 132 at the north end to SR 99 to the south,” said Chatelain. “We want to improve circulation within Stanislaus County as well as the cities of Modesto and Ceres by having another bridge to cross the Tuolumne River.”
The bridge would help truck deliveries coming and going from the Beard Industrial Tract in Modesto by directing it onto Faith Home Road, said Chatelain. In discussions later he said Ceres could force trucks to use Faith Home Road by restricting Mitchell Road truck traffic.
Mitchell and Hatch is already operating at a service level of E, which is close to an F, or failure.
“We want to improve that. This bridge project, filling this gap and creating another river crossing will certainly help that traffic at Mitchell.”
In January 2017 county supervisors awarded a $1.5 million contract to TY Lin International of Sacramento to conduct the environmental study for the project. The firm also conducted preliminary engineering of the project, which includes traffic signals at Faith Home and Hatch roads and at Garner and Finch roads.
When the city updated its General Plan in May, Ceres officials downsized plans for Faith Home Road from a future six-lane expressway to a four-lane.
Chatelain gave an overview of how the connection will take place and showed a video simulation (which is also available for viewing at www.faithhomeroad.com).
Complicating the design and cost is the need to keep the new passage above the 200-year flood plain. Chatelain said the new bridge would be safe from flooding unlike the times the northern end of the Mitchell Road Bridge near the airport has flooded in extremely wet years.
“If we’re going to spend money to build a new bridge, the county was adamant that it achieves a higher level so we have an all-weather route,” he said. “If Mitchell were to be closed, this road can stay open.”
To align Garner and Faith Home, the connection would have a slight S-curve along the farming fields between the bluff south of Finch Road and the river. The current railroad track owned by the Modesto & Empire Traction (MET) Company near Finch Road would be moved southward so that the extension of Garner Road could dip under before flying back up over the flood plain.
An earthen peninsula berm will be constructed into the flood plain toward the river for the new road before it reached the bride. Beard has offered to donate most of the 180,000 cubic yards of dirt needed to form a berm. A 1,800-foot-long 210-foot span concrete bridge would connect the road on the earthen berm to a berm south of the river. The bridge would be sized for two lanes with eight-foot shoulders and a center concrete barrier to prevent head-on crashes.
The intersections at the terminal end at Garner Road would be constructed as four-lane intersections for future expansion although initially it will be only two lanes. On the southern terminus, the intersection of Faith Home and Hatch roads would have to be shifted to the east to realign with the bridge.
Councilman Mike Kline expressed skepticism about truckers using Faith Home Road as an alternative to Mitchell Road. He said truck drivers will not want to navigate down Faith Home Road with its current stop signs and it won’t become an expressway for some time. But Chatelain said the city could ban the use of Mitchell Road for truck deliveries, forcing them to use Faith Home Road. He also noted that truck drivers will be able to connect to Highway 99 via the new Service/Mitchell interchange to be constructed or traveling to Faith Home Road to Keyes Road and the nearby freeway.
County voters approved Measure L to increase local sales tax for roads but it may only cover the design phase and leverage for new funding.
“As far as construction, there is no funding secured for that so I’d say maybe the target date is in jeopardy, maybe it won’t happen so quick,” said Chatelain.
More information about the project is available online at www.faithhomeroad.com or by contacting Kendall Flint at (650) 455-1201 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org