Two new road projects in or near Ceres would receive an infusion of millions of dollars from the proposed half-cents sales tax for transportation if Stanislaus County voters support the measure this November.
The Policy Board of StanCOG (Stanislaus County Council of Governments) voted last week to approve a set of recommended projects to be partially funded if the 25-year tax passes. The tax would generate $39 million per year or $975 million total for use on Stanislaus County streets and road projects as well as other transportation uses.
The biggest project on the city of Ceres' wish list - the Service/Mitchell/Highway 99 interchange - would get $30.7 million toward the $123 million cost of phase I.
"It gives us a dedicated funding source," said City Manager Toby Wells, who was pleased with the funding amount for Ceres. The rest of the funds would be derived from public facility fees, redevelopment bond proceeds and the pursuit of federal and state grants.
Wells remains optimistic that the tax would enable the Mitchell/Service/99 interchange to break ground in four years and be completed in 2023.
"Absolutely I'm happy with it. It was very fair. We'd always like more but we have to be realistic as well. There's far more needs in the county than there is money for - even with the half-cent sales tax."
The county would receive $17.9 million toward the $71.7 million Faith Home/Garner Road connection with a new bridge spanning the Tuolumne River east of the Mitchell Road bridge. The connection is seen as a way to take pressure off of traffic volumes on Mitchell Road in Ceres.
Wells said the county's Faith Home project - which would allow Faith Home to connect to Keyes Road - would do much to take truck traffic off of Mitchell Road. Truck traffic accounts for 15 percent of the Mitchell Road traffic volume, said Wells, and removing "even half of that would be significant."
StanCOG officials also want to designate $74.2 million to construct a four-lane expressway on Highway 132 between Highway 99 and Gates Road. The project will cost an estimated $297 million.
Modesto traffic would be improved with reconstruction of the Briggsmore Interchange which would be converted to eight lanes. The half-cent sales tax would contribute $24.6 million to the total cost of $98.6 million.
To help improve traffic flow on Highway 99, an extra lane will be added between Keyes Road and Monte Vista Avenue in Turlock. The tax would fund $2.54 million toward the $12.72 million project.
The planned widening of McHenry Avenue to five lanes between Ladd and Hogue roads north of Modesto would cost $15.2 million, of which $2.6 million would come from the new tax.
Turlock officials are pleased that $2.53 million would go toward the $12.7 million reconstruction of the Highway 99 interchange at Fulkerth Road.
Other regional projects to be funded are:
• $19 million to the $190 million project to extended Zacharias Road westward to A-5 where a new interchange will be constructed;
• $59.7 million toward the $123 million needed for the design and right-of-way acquisition of the North County Corridor to connect Riverbank with Oakdale;
• $1.79 million to install ramp metering and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) along Highway 99 for the entire stretch of in the county. The total project will cost $17.8 million;
• $1 million toward the $10 million intersection of Highways 108 and 120 in Oakdale;
• $400,000 toward the $4 million needed in Riverbank to improve intersections;
• $7.9 million for the $78.9 million reconstruction of the Highway 99 interchange at Standiford Avenue near the Vintage Faire Mall.
The regional projects account for only 28 percent of the revenues that would be created if the voters approve the sales tax hike. Half of the revenues would go to the county and its nine cities to help pave existing streets, fill potholes and perform life-lengthening slurry seal overlays. Ceres is projected to receive about $30.5 million over 25 years, or $1.2 million annually, for pavement maintenance. City officials say the money would help keep up with street maintenance to prevent more expensive repairs.
The Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) has outlined the following formula for the spending of the remainder of the tax monies:
• 10 percent on traffic management, such as traffic signalization to improving local intersections to reduce vehicle wait time;
• 7 percent for point-to-point services, better transit connections between unincorporated areas and services in Modesto, transit and some money for van connections to the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train rail;
• 5 percent will be spent on pedestrian and bike path programs (or $250,000 annually for Ceres);
The 25-year countywide half-cent sales tax is expected to generate $480.2 million for local streets and roads, $48 million for bike and pedestrian paths, $96 million for traffic management, $269 million for regional projects and $67.2 million for transit services. Ceres share would be $122,210 annually for bike and pedestrian projects, and $244,420 annually for traffic management.
Hughson will receive $241,923 annually for local street repairs. Stanislaus County would get $480.1 million to spend on rural roads over the life of the tax.
Wells said the beauty of the tax is that revenues will be totally spent in the county and will help leverage for state and federal transportation funds.
With the Policy Board approving the funding formula, the tax measure will be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors and each of the city councils for approval. The measure is expected to garner approval of all nine cities and the county before it's ordered for the Nov. 8 ballot.
Voters appear to be poised to support the tax if they are supplied the specifics of where the tax money will be spent, a polling firm indicated. The measure must receive a two-thirds majority of support, or 66 percent plus one, to pass. An Oct. 15-21 phone survey of 153,723 likely voters by Godbe Research determined that support has grown in favor of the tax. The survey indicated 64 percent of likely voters would vote for a measure raising taxes on sales in the county. Officials believe a two-thirds majority may be obtained by being specific about where the funds go.
Wells said the political reality is that Oakdale was not onboard with the 2008 measure and it lost by a couple hundred votes. He said the crafting of a project list was to give something to each jurisdictions to head off opposition.
"I think we've got a pretty good shot at it. If it passes that's a whole another question."
The cities of Waterford and Hughson have no regional projects but residents there will benefit from the county's new construction. Those cities still get the benefit of monies for road maintenance, which could encourage voter support, Wells said.