Just like the audience of an "American Idol" episode, community members at Tuesday's South County Corridor project meeting were asked to push a number on a clicker to cast a vote for their favorite option. Instead of voting for their favorite singer, however, attendees of the public meeting rated their choices for a route from Highway 99 to Interstate 5.
Tuesday's meeting was the first of three public forums being held by the Stanislaus Council of Governments to gain input on the top 10 routes, narrowed down from an original 90 options.
When presented with the top possible options for a proposed expressway from Turlock to Interstate 5, the majority of people present at Tuesday's meeting chose routes that would go west along Main Street and into Patterson to hit the interstate.
Norman Lucas, who has been farming off of Fulkerth Road since 1938, said in his opinion, the best route is a straight shoot from Turlock to Patterson on W. Main Street, instead of the options that start on Main Street then jog over to Fulkerth Road.
"I'm not saying it shouldn't be done, with industry coming into Turlock, but it doesn't make since for the sharp turns...West Main has more room," said Lucas.
The top ranked option chosen by an electronic voting system on Tuesday was 4D, a route that travels west along Main Street to Eucalyptus Avenue in north Patterson to the interstate. This route would benefit primary traffic destinations, reduce traffic congestion and provides the least impact to air quality and noise. However, the option would require a new San Joaquin River crossing, new roads, a new I-5 interchange, and new aquaduct crossings over the Delta Mendota Canal. It also impacts the City of Patterson's Waste Water Treatment Plant Percolation Area north of Olive Avenue.
All of the northern routes that follow Main Street or Fulkerth Road, would require a new interchange on I-5, new roads to be built and aquaduct crossings, said Keith Rhodes, the project manager for the South County Corridor Feasibility Study.
The route with the fewest improvements needed starts on W. Main Street, turns south on Crowslanding Road, then hits Fink Road to I-5. However, a traffic destination study found that most travelers from Turlock to I-5 currently are heading north to the Bay Area and not south.
Some of those present at Tuesday's meeting voiced concerns about the impact on dairies and other farms located on the proposed routes, as well as the feasibility of making country roads, like N. Blaker Road that connects W. Main and Fulkerth, into a four-lane expressway.
"We really want to get your input, especially if you live out here and know exactly what's going on with some of these roads," said Rhodes.
While community members were able to view detailed maps of each of the possible 10 routes, some of the details of each route were not available, such as expected cost.
"Down the line, more information about cost and environmental impacts of each route will be available, once we've narrowed it down to the top two or three," said Kendall Flint of Flint Strategies, the company contracted to gather community input on the project.
Community members will be able to cast a vote for their top route choices at the final two public meetings set for Patterson today and Newman on Thursday, or online at: http://www.valleyvisionstanislaus.com/south-county-corridor-feasibility-study.html