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Bypass Concerns Stir Up Stearns

POSTED August 21, 2012 7:49 p.m.

It was billed as the ‘North County Corridor Project Update for S. Stearns Road Area Residents’ –but the problem was, many of those residents were just not made aware of it.

A Thursday evening meeting hosted at the Oakdale City Council Chambers outlined the possible future of property in the South Stearns Road region, as Caltrans and Stanislaus County work with the cities of Oakdale, Riverbank, Modesto and StanCOG, the Council of Governments, on developing the long-discussed and oft-moved bypass.

This time, about three dozen residents just learning of the latest preferred route of the North County Corridor turned out for the session, many concerned that it will directly and adversely impact them. The vast majority heard of the meeting through word of mouth, as there was no notification to those residents from official sources that the meeting was being held.

Stanislaus County Public Works Director Matt Machado did issue an apology for the oversight and said they would send information to those potentially impacted landowners. More than 120 parcels affected by the South Stearns route were missed in the earlier notifications of the project study and hearing process. South Stearns is one of three alternatives currently under review.

Among the locals in the path of the city’s preferred alternative are Galen and Katy Winders, who said it would basically dissect their property and even put an off ramp in their backyard.

Benefits boasted by Caltrans of the bypass, referred to as the East-West Expressway/Freeway would be an “improved interregional circulation network” as well as “improved access to and around (the) Cities of Modesto, Riverbank and Oakdale” and a reduction in traffic congestion while improving travel times. It would also allow for improved movement of goods, officials said, it would accommodate projected growth in the region and enhance traffic safety. Alternatives over the years have been revised, redrawn, thrown out and brought back, and that process is continuing, according to officials.

There is still no ‘set in stone’ final route, Machado assured residents with multiple questions on Thursday night, with more studies to be completed and comments still being taken on the latest preferred route.

George Osner, a consulting planner for the City of Oakdale Community Development Department, said the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Report prepared as part of the city’s 2030 General Plan Update runs through Sept. 17. That update also includes the Crane Crossing (west of town) and Sierra Pointe (East Oakdale) specific plan, with the 2030 planning area for the city including a portion of the North County Corridor northern alignment preferred by the city.

Machado added that he anticipated the county sending out information to all those landowners inadvertently missed and another public meeting would be scheduled for those that didn’t have an opportunity to attend – or didn’t know about – Thursday’s session.

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