As painful as the impending extension of Highway 58 will be (no matter which route is chosen), the one thing I think we all expected was that it would enhance traffic flow.
Turns out things are a touch more complicated.
Yes, the extension will allow drivers on 58 to get further through Bakersfield than Real Road, if not all the way to Interstate 5. At least not yet.
But there are a couple wrinkles I don't think everyone knows about. I didn't.
Wrinkle No. 1: There isn't enough money to build a full complement of onramps to Highway 99 north of 58.
People heading south on 99 who want to continue west on 58 will have to get off on Rosedale Highway, jog around on Mohawk and then jump back on the freeway (which, at that point will be the Westside Parkway). Same thing with people heading east on 58 who want to go north on 99: they'll have to use surface streets.
Those two onramps would have cost about $200 million alone, according to Caltrans. Funding for the entire project is only $700 million.
Besides, according to Caltrans there isn't enough traffic yet to justify building the onramps, even if money were no object.
Wrinkle No. 2: No matter what route is chosen or onramps are built, the Stockdale Highway offramp from 99 and the Brundage Lane off- and onramps to 99 will be closed. Forever.
The ramps were considered only temporary fixes when 58 dead-ended some 30 years ago.
Caltrans plans to take care of that bit of "housekeeping" when the extension project starts.
Those particular ramps were allowed only until the 58/99 interchange was complete, explained Kern Council of Governments Director Ahron Hakimi.
Uh, one could argue that since the interchange will be missing two key onramps, it's not complete.
Reducing our access to and from 99 at the same time we're told we have to wait for more money to build those onramps has a deja-vu-all-over-again feeling to it.
I know big projects like this are built in phases and it's better to get at least one phase done than nothing, as Caltrans Senior Transportation Engineer Rick Helgeson told me.
But it's more than a little disconcerting in a town where freeways seem to start and stop on a whim.
Hakimi, for his part, said it is his goal to get the money to make sure the ramps are built.
While the ramp moving southbound 99 traffic onto 58 is much less expensive than the opposite ramp, Helgeson told me Caltrans wouldn't build one without the other.
Which means we could be waiting a while before we get all the money we need.
And that could translate into a big pain for yours truly since the 58-99 traffic will be routed onto Rosedale Highway until those ramps are built.
Rosedale Highway, grrrrr.
Hakimi and the Caltrans guys kept telling me it's actually a shorter distance than the onramps will be, if built. That's because 58 will swoop slightly south before connecting to 99.
Shorter in space, maybe, but not in time.
There's a big difference between making a three mile trip at freeway speeds and making even a one mile trip at Rosedale Highway speeds.
There are multiple traffic lights between where folks would get off 99 and back on to 58, I reminded them.
And, oh yeah, there's the Landco Spur! (The bain of my existence.)
That's the train crossing that blocks up traffic every so often, usually when I'm late for work.
Hakimi conceded the project does have a few warts.
"On the surface, yes, it seems like a step backward," he said of closing freeway access and waiting to build the onramps. "But the bigger picture is traffic volume on (Rosedale and Stockdale) will decrease when the project is built. It will go down dramatically."
Others involved in the project reminded me that no one ever thought we'd see a 58 extension project in our lifetimes. And here we are so keep some perspective.
OK. OK. I'll try and remember that while I'm fuming in my car, stuck on Rosedale Highway.
Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lois Henry, not The Bakersfield Californian. Her column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Comment at http://www.bakersfield.com, call her at 395-7373 or e-mail email@example.com