By Dennis Wyatt

Driving Louise Avenue — one of the heaviest traveled streets in Manteca and Lathrop — will get a lot easier by this time in 2010. That’s when work is expected to be completed on two projects to widen narrow segments of Louise Avenue from two lanes to four lanes.

One project involves Manteca widening Louise Avenue to four lanes where it crosses the Union Pacific tracks between Airport Way and Union Road. The biggest delay had been obtaining routine California Public Utilities Commission approval to have PG&E relocate a natural gas line valve that is in the right-of-way needed for an eastbound lane on the southeast corner of the crossing.

The council Tuesday is expected to go ahead with eminent domain proceedings to acquire the PG&E property needed for the widening.

The railroad extended the concrete sections for vehicles between the tracks to accommodate the widening during closures for maintenance in 2008.

Lathrop has scheduled work for this year to widen Louise Avenue from Fifth Street to the point where Lathrop’s city limits meet with Manteca at the Union Pacific Railroad track. The completion date is this summer. The cost of Lathrop’s Louise Avenue improvements is estimated at $2.1 million. Once the railroad crossing is widened, Louise Avenue will have only three segments that are still two lanes between Cottage Avenue in Manteca and McKee Boulevard west of Interstate 5.

The three segments are all in Manteca. The stretch from Airport Way to Lathrop’s city limits in front of the Manteca Unified School District headquarters complex will be widened in part when Villa Ticino East is built on the south side of Louise Avenue. Manteca does not currently require developers to put improvements on major streets that do not front their property. That means the city needs to find a way to fund part of the widening.

There is also a short segment just east of Main Street that involves taking property from a half dozen homes to widen the street. There is no development that can be put on the hook for the widening of the segment and there is no game plan in place by the city to proceed although the second Measure K approval cycle is one source of funds being sought to get the project moving.

The other segment is the Highway 99 overcrossing. City leaders had hoped the Caltrans widening project would include widening the bridge deck but so far the state has indicated that is not the case as Highway 99 can be widened to six lanes starting in 2011 with the existing bridges in place at Cottage and Louise avenues.

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