The time to provide much needed input regarding a four-lane expressway connecting Interstate 5 to Highway 99 through southern Stanislaus County has come.

The highly-anticipated South County Corridor has been on the back burner of StanCOG for over five years, and with the implementation of the North County Corridor well underway, county officials felt it was the right time to move forward with three scoping workshops hosted in the cities that would benefit, or suffer, from the plan the most, Newman, Turlock and Patterson.

Newman was first to get a glimpse at proposed routes provided by StanCOG during the Wednesday, Jan. 14 meeting held at Newman City Hall, where roughly 20 folks from Newman, as well as two Patterson landowners, sat in on the presentation.

"The purpose of the study is to find a way to efficiently move goods throughout the state," task manager for public outreach Kendall Flint told those in attendance. "This is one of the key corridors, we think."

According to StanCOG’s South County Corridor website, the route is intended to connect I-5 with Highway 99 while bypassing the cities of Patterson and Newman.

The city of Turlock was shown as the likely eastern terminus of the corridor along either West Main Street or Fulkerth Avenue.

The western terminus of the corridor was left open for more interpretation and feedback, considering that both a route connecting with I-5 along Patterson’s northern border, as well as a route shown connecting to I-5 at the Fink Road exit in Crows Landing were both portrayed.

In the land north and east of Patterson, a variety of different pathways was shown crisscrossing the historic farm plots of the Patterson Colony as the route progressed into the 100-year flood plain of Del Puerto Creek near I-5.

The other clear route shown has the expressway turning south along Crows Landing Road where it would cross the San Joaquin River and travel through the community of Crows Landing before connecting at the Fink Road interchange with I-5.

The southerly route would directly benefit the county’s future plans to develop the Crows Landing Business Park at the former Naval Air Facility property owned by the county, while providing an indirect benefit to the city of Newman, which also has plans to grow in the near future.

Plans for a more northerly South County Corridor above Patterson would provide more benefit to San Francisco Bay area traffic, while a southerly expressway would favor Monterey Bay-area and Los Angeles traffic.

Traffic signals would be placed along the corridor to promote business along the way as well, according to Keith Rhodes of T.Y. International, who is tasked with mapping the plan.

The series of maps provided by county planners showed the proposed routes, and those in attendance were asked to provide feedback by placing a series of red or green dots onto the map—red dots denoting an undesired route, green dots to show approval in a route.

"We’re taking in the local general plans of Patterson and Newman," Flint told the crowd. "Will it be both worthwhile and feasible? What will a roadway alignment do for those areas? Will it be positive? Negative? Will it produce efficiency and safe access?"

Those in attendance prompted discussions with the various county planners on hand in the front of the room, while one Patterson landowner, former city councilman Larry Buehner, garnered the full attention of one of the planners as he discussed his desires for the more northerly option of the expressway at a table in the back of the room.

"We need to think of future traffic, not just from the north, but from the south," Newman Public Works Director Koosun Kim said to StanCOG officials during the meeting.

"We have to put this together for the growth of the West Side," Patterson landowner Fritz Schali said.

"Especially if you’re from Newman," Executive Director of StanCOG Carlos Yamzon exclaimed while sitting in the crowd.

Stanislaus County District 5 Supervisor Jim DeMartini, who was also in attendance of last Wednesday’s meeting, said that the project is long overdue.

"It’s something that we’ve needed for a long time," DeMartini said. "Either Zacharias or Crows Landing Road, not too much in between."

DeMartini later added that it would be much cheaper to place the corridor along Crows Landing Road.

Buehner pointed out to the group that future challenges with crossing the Delta Mendota Canal and California Aqueduct would need to be met, and that crossing Del Puerto Creek would add an extra bridge if the northerly route is chosen.

"Either way, there will be some major right-of-way impacts," Rhodes told the crowd.

Schali seemed to represent the landowners of the Patterson Colony, where the proposed northerly route would pass, when saying, "The land is not a problem, we’ll give them the land."

According to Rhodes, the project could cost hundreds of millions of dollars to construct.

StanCOG planners will be taking comments on the proposed routes through February and into early March, before coming back in April for the second round of meetings that will focus on the feedback received from the first round of workshops.

Patterson’s South County Corridor Feasibility Workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 28, in the Hammon Senior Center at 6:30 p.m.

Elias Funez can be reached at 209-892-6187 ext. 31 or elias@pattersonirrigator.com.

PI news, community and crime reporter

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