Visualize this: You want to go east on Las Palmas Avenue across Highway 33. As you turn off the downtown circle between the two parks, you see white signal pole arms hanging over the traffic lanes on each side. Now visualize an overcrossing that would probably reach to the height of the bottom of these two arms. You immediately start up an overpass ramp, which must climb to a height close to where you see two crosses over the railroad tracks and then descend to street level at First Street.
Of necessity, this overpass will have to be at least five, maybe six lanes wide at the top — sort of like the Briggsmore overpass in Modesto. Keep in mind that by the time the PCCP West Park industrial park reaches its peak in 2030 — the project would trigger this overpass — Highway 33 would be four lanes from the Crows Landing airbase off of Marshall Road and on north beyond Patterson. Would some of those ramps eat into the city parks? That’s a good question.
Visualize this: the Apricot Fiesta and other events use the two city parks as well as the closed-off street between the parks to host large gatherings. Instead, a large concrete ramp structure would separate the two parks. One also must ask, could the circle even be blocked off anymore to hold downtown events? If not, where would these community events take place? The downtown is where these events should be for decades to come.
But believe it or not, the scenario gets worse. Once the westbound traffic comes down the ramp onto the circle, where does it go? If there are no on- and off-ramps on top, how does the traffic get back onto Highway 33 going north or south? In theory, the southbound traffic could go around the circle and then use South Salado Avenue to reach Highway 33. Likewise, the northbound traffic could use North Del Puerto Avenue to reach Highway 33, where there would have to be a stoplight to let it go north.
I first realized West Park’s bad effect on Patterson back in late 2006 when I heard the project proposal, which included a crossing over Las Palmas at Highway 33 to solve the problem of blocking east-west traffic, such as police, fire crews and ambulances, when a 50-car train is going through town.
It didn’t take me long to see the negative impacts on Patterson’s historic downtown. The negatives compound themselves beyond the visual aspects, although those get worse the more you consider what would be involved in the design of an overcrossing at this location. The construction period alone would be devastating.
This issue didn’t resurface until recently, when developer Gerry Kamilos reintroduced the issue of the overpass to the county’s Crows Landing Air Facility steering committee. In between, he floated the idea of a “trench” taking the train below ground. Apparently, he’s not considering the trench anymore, probably because of the expense, among other issues.
On a historical note, our oldest civic building is the Circle Building in the circle downtown. It was clearly designed to be viewed as people drove in from East Las Palmas. The building is especially designed with its decorative façade on the east side. Now, imagine that the only way you can see that view is by driving down a ramp. With all the other negatives, this view and change in the historical downtown doesn’t work for me.
These negatives are why some of us are willing to spend so much time and raise so much money to oppose the West Park Crows Landing base concept. If we don’t help defend the town, who else will? We must stand by the city of Patterson and other area agencies to oppose this project, which will greatly damage our community. Patterson and the West Side cities have no obligation to provide jobs at all costs, especially when there are other options. The West Side doesn’t need to become another Santa Clara Valley.
Perhaps those of us who have lived here many years can appreciate the dangers of this project better than more recent arrivals, who don’t understand how the layout of our community works. When you do understand in years to come, hopefully we won’t have allowed the downtown to be destroyed for future generations.
West Side native Claude Delphia is vice president of WS-PACE.org, a group that opposes PCCP West Park LLC’s plans for the Crows Landing Air Field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org