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Residents Relay Bypass Concerns
Council Session
Council Mtg
An overflow crowd of residents turned out for the Monday night, Oct. 3, meeting of the Oakdale City Council. On the agenda was a recommendation for the North County Corridor bypass.

Monday night’s Oakdale City Council meeting brought a standing room only crowd to the council chambers with the overflow of citizens into the lobby area as city officials decided on a resolution to recommend a route alternative for the planned North County Corridor.

The corridor, a $400 million project years in planning, would link Highway 99 near Salida to Highway 120 east of Oakdale for a smoother traffic flow, bypassing the main thoroughfare that now runs through Riverbank and Oakdale.

With the Caltrans project having been discussed for many years, Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said the city wanted to make a recommendation that was in the best interests of the Oakdale community. Whitemyer added that while city officials have been waiting for an environmental and traffic report, concerns of the community made the decision to make a recommendation important.

Whitemyer said Caltrans will ultimately select the preferred alignment alternative but will give strong consideration to an alternative if the member jurisdictions, such as Oakdale, have selected it as the locally preferred alternative.

With four alternatives on the map, Whitemyer said the city was recommending the options of 1B and 2B which were the furthest south, connecting near Lancaster Road, past Stearns Road.

“Obviously there will be a lot of discussion when that goes out,” Whitemyer said of the long awaited traffic report, now planned for early 2017.

According to Whitemyer, the recommendation was made based on the least amount of impact to the city’s long-term plans and other factors of minimizing the number of homes or properties that need to be acquired and a route that did not tie into a residential neighborhood.

Over a dozen residents spoke to the council with their concerns at the Oct. 3 council session, many of whom included their opposition to Caltrans’ plan to have a roundabout where the bypass met with State Route 120.

“I understand there’s a lot that don’t want the exit in their backyard, but we don’t want it in our front yard,” said Duke Cooper, who feared that Lancaster Road would be used as an alternate route when traffic was backed up.

Tom Schwartz said that while the proposed roundabout design was a major concern, he supported the city’s recommendation which would allow the city in the future to expand their sphere of influence for possible annexation. With the expanded area, and growth of the city, Schwartz said the area would be an ideal location for the development of executive homes that would have little draw on city services.

“We’ve had development of low-cost and medium-cost housing,” Schwartz said, “the city could explore putting executive homes out there.”

Mayor Pat Paul told the group that when she was part of the city’s representation to the North County Corridor Transportation Authority Board, she repeatedly questioned Caltrans members about the design that included the controversial roundabout and why it was suggested.

“No one would claim it,” Paul said of Caltrans officials.

During discussions, Whitemyer said he would rather see a freeway interchange design than a roundabout at the location.

Councilman J.R. McCarty also echoed that he did not approve of the roundabout proposal.

As the council listened to questions that were posed to them, speakers were reminded that their concerns about planning the design were more for the North County Corridor Transportation Authority, NCCTA, than the city itself. Whitemyer and Paul both asked the public to bring their concerns to the NCCTA meetings on the subject.

Resident Kathy Taylor at the podium, as well as others who called out from their seats, complained that the NCCTA meetings were in the afternoon and not after hours, a more convenient time.

“Caltrans wants community input,” Whitemyer said, suggesting residents to also email and write letters about their concerns.

The next meeting of the North County Corridor Transportation Authority will be Wednesday Nov. 16 at 4:30 p.m. at 1010 10th Street in Modesto.