In its current form, the Route 132 West Freeway project is deeply flawed. The flaws raise questions about the feasibility of the project. Before construction is begun, several problems need to be addressed. When completed as proposed, Phase 1 will increase air pollution, degrade the environment, and add to traffic congestion.
Problem 1: Intersection of Franklin, Needham, and 132
The project will create a new, highly congested signalized intersection. The intersection will serve as a choke point among three converging arterials. Traffic from Highway 99 will exit to the intersection, traffic from Kansas Avenue bound to and from downtown will pass through this intersection, and route 132 traffic to and from downtown will all converge at one traffic signal. Level F service (the worst possible) is likely during peak periods. Air pollution will increase as a result of traffic congestion.
Problem 2: Carpenter Road, Route 132 Interchange
An incomplete interchange is planned. This will cause extra driving and extra air pollution as vehicles won’t always be able to use the shortest distance between two points. Out of area motorists will be even more inconvenienced as they will not be able to figure out how to get back on the freeway after they get off.
Problem 3: Dakota and Kansas Avenues.
A signalized intersection is planned. The intersection will create a choke point among three converging arterials. Starts, stops and waiting will add to air pollution and noise.
Problem 4: Dakota and Maze Boulevard
A signalized intersection is planned. The intersection will create a choke point among two converging arterials. Starts, stops, and waiting will add to air pollution and noise.
Problem 5: Congestion Between Gates Road and Interstate 5
Between Freeway 99 on the east and Gates Road on the west, Route 132 has a number of entry points. During rush hour, when vehicles are headed to and from the Bay Area, large numbers of cars enter Route 132. As vehicles head toward the San Joaquin River, congestion gradually increases. By the time a driver reaches the river, maximum congestion occurs as the bridge over the river is the only connector for miles between Modesto and the Bay Area. As a result of feeding traffic from Freeway 99 onto Route 132, the roadway will become more congested than it is now. At rush hour, this section of route 132 is presently at capacity. Adding more traffic would degrade service.
Route 132 in the area of the San Joaquin River presently traverses a wildlife refuge. The negative impact of increased traffic on the wildlife needs to be fully assessed before construction of Phase 1 proceeds.
Problem 6: Toxic Waste Piles
The toxic waste piles in the 132 Freeway Right of Way between Freeway 99 and Carpenter Road need to be removed. This may be a separate issue, but any decision NOT to remove the piles must be included in the Environmental Impact Report. While a study of the piles has already been undertaken, the study did not look at every square inch of dirt in every pile. Therefore, no one really knows how much toxic waste is within the piles, nor the long term danger the piles pose to surrounding residences or the ground water. There could be pockets of highly dangerous Barium that have not been detected.
If the toxic waste piles are not removed, then variables need to be considered in any proposed remediation plan. For example, if a concrete cap is to be placed on top of the berms, how is the integrity of the cap to be guaranteed? Concrete cracks over time and water leeches through it. Caltrans previously violated agreements with the California Department Of Toxic Substance Control regarding the maintenance of the piles. How is Caltrans going to be kept accountable for the integrity of a concrete cap?
Finally, the citizens of west Modesto request that the 132 Freeway be built below grade within the city limits to minimize noise and adverse impact to the aesthetic value of the community. The community would be disadvantaged and environmentally disrupted by an elevated structure.
The flaws in the Route 132 West Project are so substantial as to call into question the expected benefit of the project. While I am not an advocate of the “Do Not Build” alternative, the configuration of the entire project needs to be vastly improved before going forward. That means enough money needs to be allocated to do the project right, including minimal signalized intersections, with roundabouts instead of signals where feasible, a full interchange at Carpenter Road, and mitigation of impacts on the wildlife refuge. Because there is no guarantee of money for future phases of construction, these issues should be addressed before the next phase.