The conversations regarding the North County Corridor (NCC) continued with a session in Riverbank earlier this month and were hosted by the NCC Transportation Expressway Authority, Drake Haglan and Associates and Stanislaus County.
Several community members attended the meeting along with Mayor Richard O’Brien, Councilmember Darlene Barber-Martinez, Councilmember Leanne Jones Cruz and City Manager Jill Anderson representing Riverbank.
The meeting was more for comments only from the crowd than a question and answer type meeting.
“Our comments will be taken as seriously as the individuals’ comments,” said O’Brien. “They are trying to make it (expressway) fit because everywhere else is a rural area and we are the urban side of it and they are just trying to make it fit the best way they can but they haven’t really mitigated all of our concerns.”
Currently the project is in the environmental studies stage and officials are in contact with the locals and hearing what they want; however, Caltrans will decide on the final option.
According to information provided by the NCC Transportation Expressway Authority, the primary purpose of the NCC project is to provide a high-capacity, high-speed west-east roadway that will meet future traffic needs, improve safety in the north county area, alleviate traffic on parallel roadways, accommodate multi-modal travel, provide interregional connectivity, and provide economic growth.
Furthermore, the authority’s informational pamphlet adds that the Authority anticipates that the ultimate roadway type will be a four to eight lane expressway with interchanges, at-grade intersections, grade-separated railroad crossings, irrigation district crossings, frontage roads and street alignments. Given the funding constraints, the corridor will likely be constructed in phases, the pamphlet notes.
The area that this alignment would extend through would be from State Route 99 in the vicinity of the Salida community, to a location on State Route 120 east of the City of Oakdale.
“Overall their traffic forecasts are that they need to have additional capacity to move goods and services through this corridor as well as other corridors in the county and it came about as a need for an Oakdale bypass and to be able to better effectuate movement from 120 to 99,” explained Anderson.
One of the main concerns O’Brien expressed was the access to what they currently have on Claribel Road and future access with future development as well as what will be built if they do not have enough funds to complete the project.
“They are trying to make it fit for the City of Riverbank and we want to ensure that the city gets the maximum out of it without hindering the project,” said O’Brien. “They are buying property so at least they will have the property but they may not have the ability to do the complete work.”
“Let’s say for some reason they had to use the Claribel widening project that goes through there, we would be willing to work with them as long as they provided access to any existing and future development so the concern that we have is that there doesn’t seem to be an openness at this point in the game to doing that,” said Anderson. “So we understand the different things here but we have to just preserve our existing retail; this is not only Riverbank but the entire community.
“Our position, if this is the major corridor for a period of time or forever, a lot of people want to go into these sites so why not provide an access through that even at the slight risk of reducing the traffic flow because the reality is that a lot of people do want access into the shopping center so we cannot let that access get diminished and we have communicated that.”
The Claribel widening project and the NCC are still in discussions and nothing has been set in stone but according to Anderson it is still creating a level of uncertainty for potential commercial and retail investors as well as the homeowners who will be impacted by it.
“Every place along the NCC is a rural section except for in Riverbank and the county is trying to do its best to make it fit to where it will benefit both the city and the county and that although in their vision where they think it fits we may have some concerns because we know much to the greater degree of where our traffic is,” stated O’Brien.
Several different route options are still being discussed, officials added.
“They (county, contractors, Caltrans) have been working hard and they are trying to accommodate our concerns, they have a lot of issues to deal with and we look forward to continuing to work with them and to make this as good a project as possible for everybody,” stated Anderson.