Driving on a country road in foggy weather is dangerous and all the more reason to establish a road to connect Highway 99 and Interstate 5, at least according to Kendall Flint whose company Flint Strategies is in charge of public outreach for the project that will likely take between six and 12 years to complete.
“Quite frankly I would have been thrilled to have that route as an option last night,” said Flint of her foggy drive to Newman for the first of three feasibility workshops on the South County Corridor project. “Last night was not a safe drive… a kind of expressway with appropriate lighting and onramps and off ramps could improve safety for people heading home.”
While the idea of creating a South County Corridor has been discussed for several decades, it will take a full year just to complete the preliminary feasibility study to diagnose options for the establishment of the route. Thursday evening Turlock community members gathered for the feasibility study workshop to interface with the engineers on the benefits and challenges inherent to the project.
“The purpose of the feasibility study is to really look at an East-West corridor that would serve the local movement of people and goods, but also serve the communities adjacent to it,” said Stanislaus Council of Governments Executive Director Carlos Yamzon.
While significant details have yet to be determined, such as the cost of the project or whether it will be completed in phases or all at once, the workshop provided the public the opportunity to look at maps and mark up potential routes with green stickers if they approved and red stickers if they did not.
“We’re asking tonight about the public’s official thoughts on this. In other words what are some of the issues we’ll be considering,” said Flint.
Westward route options to connect to Interstate 5 include West Main, Fulkerth Road, and Crows Landing Road, though finding a thoroughfare to benefit Turlock, Patterson, and Newman could prove tricky. Presently these cities have contributed financially to the feasibility study as well as the Stanislaus Council of Governments whose policy board will have the final say on the route upon the completion of the study.
The engineering firm T.Y. Lin International received the community’s input which will be included in a master report. The firm will be charged with creating criteria with which to grade the various proposed routes and will take into consideration factors such as how many times trucks will have to stop and go on a proposed route and its residual impact on the environment.
While exploring the Crows Landing Road option may prove counterintuitive to Bay Area bound travelers, or trucks heading to the port of Oakland, some preferred this route over widening Fulkerth Road which could negatively affect existing dairies adjacent to the street as well as the interchange at Highway 99. Other concerns included depleting ground water sources as water becomes increasingly shallow the nearer it gets to the San Joaquin River. Establishing bike routes were discussed as well as taking into account grade separation, or areas that may require a bridge or cross rail road tracks, for instance.
Something else under consideration is the impact the South County Corridor will have on farmland. Executive Director of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau Wayne Zipser attended the Turlock workshop and noted that while the general farming community is not opposed to the project, there is apprehension.
“As far as the expansion is concerned if it is to move goods and services than we’re good,” said Zipser. “If it’s to move people we’ve got a problem.”
Should the project move forward and individuals lose their farmland, Zipser said it is a priority to ensure that those farmers are “justly compensated.”
The final feasibility study workshop will take place in Patterson at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 28 at the Hammon Senior Center located at 1033 W. Las Palmas.