City officials, law enforcement officers and members of the public who routinely use Patterson Road to travel from west Riverbank to east and back were surprised Friday morning with barricades blocking off the street on either side of the railroad crossing. The closure had cars and trucks backed up in both directions using the detour down First Street and onto Atchison across the viaduct over the weekend.
On Friday, July 17, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway had a crew and heavy equipment out, working on the roadway as it crosses the tracks. A large Caterpillar forklift was being used to lift the pavement away from the tracks. A crew spokesman said the work was to level out the rails and bring them up to street level.
The warning signs indicated only the Friday, July 17 date for closure, but as of press deadline over the weekend, the road was still blocked, with no equipment or crew members in view on Saturday or Sunday. Through trains, however, appeared to still be operating. Midday traffic on Friday backed up on First Street from the stop light at Atchison down to and around the corner onto Patterson. Coming the other way, it was backed up over the viaduct and around the corner toward the Catholic Church.
Riverbank Police Services Sergeant Josh Humble said that rush hour traffic Friday moving east through town, and restricted completely to Highway 108, was backed up from the First Street stop light back over the viaduct, past the Catholic Church and back through the stoplight where the highway is connected, via Callander Avenue, from Patterson to Atchison.
Sgt. Humble said that, as far as he could tell, his office was not notified of the road closure. The Riverbank Facebook page on Friday featured a photo of the warning sign, apologizing for not knowing of the closure, but attempting to use social media to get the word out, since City Hall was closed on Friday for a furlough day. Other Riverbank neighborhood Facebook pages were active, asking for more information and complaining that city offices were closed.
Humble said he did not know if the 911 dispatch system was notified, nor whether other agencies were informed.
The closure impacted police, fire and ambulance emergency services going east to west, as well as STaRT’s Route 60 bus line. The regional transit line normally comes down Patterson Road from Modesto, staying on Patterson until Claus Road, where it swings north to connect to the highway, turning east toward Oakdale to complete its circuit. It follows the same route going west back to Modesto.