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Stearns Road Residents Want Answers On Bypass

POSTED September 18, 2012 11:11 p.m.

More than 30 residents of the Stearns Road area affected by the proposed North County Corridor project showed in force at the Oakdale City Council Chambers on Wednesday, Sept. 12. The Stearns Road route for the corridor is one of three alternatives developed since June of 2011 and would impact approximately 120 land parcels.

“This plan devalues my property,” said Stearns resident Barbara Winders before the meeting. “I lose three houses and part of an orchard.”

Sherry McRae pointed to the map and said that the plan takes off the back corner of her parcel.

Matt Machado of Stanislaus County Public Works fended off jabs from the audience demanding answers and explanations for a proposed route that they claimed would have a devastating effect on their homes, access to land, and property values.

To aggravate the matter of their homes and property being affected by a multi-lane roadway, many just learned last month of the project and had been unintentionally left off a 2011 notification list for hearings that asked for public input.

“You goofed,” an audience member called out as Machado attempted to apologize for the gaffe.

“That’s right, we goofed,” Machado responded as he attempted to explain the oversight in which there were over 650,000 “stakeholders” to the project and the county thought all were notified.

Machado delivered an update of the project and where it stands currently, noting that the North County Corridor has been active since April of 2008 when a Joint Powers Authority was formed between Stanislaus County and the cities of Modesto, Riverbank and Oakdale.

The bypass has been narrowed to three proposed routes, including Stearns. The others would impact Wamble Road and Lancaster Road however, according to Machado, the Lancaster Road route may no longer be in consideration due to environmental and high cost concerns.

While some audience members tried to imply that the county and JPA were trying to put “critters and salamanders” ahead of people value with the route by taking into consideration environmental concerns and dismissing the Lancaster Road route, Machado explained that the purpose of the project is to reduce congestion on Highway 108 through downtown Riverbank and Oakdale. He acknowledged that the Stearns Road route had the most effect on people but did the best job of the project’s goals regarding traffic problems of reducing congestion, accidents, travel times and accommodating growth.

Oakdale Mayor Pat Paul was in attendance and was called on for the city’s position on the project.

Paul stated she did not have the data to deliver an informed message but called on those interested to attend a Sept. 19 meeting on the project or the Sept. 17 city council meeting.

Some in attendance asked Paul about rumors that she had property in the affected areas and questioned her possible association with land developer Randy Thomas. Paul denied the rumors.

Machado told the group that the JPA was still about three years off until a decision would be made on the route.

“We’re still studying this, the pros and cons each way,” Machado said. “There’s pain everywhere we turn. We will work extra hard to make everything right.”

“I can understand how everyone would not want a bypass through their backyards and disrupting their lives,” Mayor Paul said after the meeting. “What I didn’t understand was the personal attacks. I’m not siding with anyone or any particular group. I’m doing what’s best for Oakdale.”

In addition to the session scheduled today (Sept. 19) at 4:30 p.m. in the County/City Building at 1010 Tenth St., in downtown Modesto, the North County Corridor Board continues regular meetings, every other month.

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