Contractors working on the Westside Parkway were up early -- or stayed up late -- to start pouring concrete for the two-lane bridge that will carry traffic west over the Kern River from Truxtun Avenue to the new highway.
The workers started pouring the concrete at 2 a.m. Friday and aimed to finish by 11 a.m. The bridge is 773-feet long and will rise 35 feet above the river at its highest point.
The Westside Parkway will create a major east-west link extending from Truxtun Avenue to Heath Road. The phase being done Friday, pouring concrete for the westbound bridge, is one of many more steps in the project, but its scale was impressive nonetheless.
The concrete pour involved about 180 truckloads of concrete, with workers using pipes connected to large concrete pumps to fill in chambers with enough concrete to build five miles of sidewalk.
This will be the bottom of two decks, sandwiched against each other, of the bridge. If you're standing under the bridge, or riding on the bike path that now goes underneath it, in the future, it'll be what you see when you look up.
The top deck, which cars will drive on, is expected to be done in four to six weeks, said Luis Topete, a civil engineer for the Thomas Roads Improvement Program office, which is overseeing the Westside project.
"It's a very critical item because once you have your bridges done, it's just a matter of paving ... from one bridge to the next," Topete said. "Everything else just falls into place."
In total, the Westside project involves 12 bridges. "That's incredible," Topete mused as he counted them up for the first time.
The bridge being worked on Friday lies next to a second one that will carry traffic east. One or the other of them may be widened, depending on which of three options is chosen for the Centennial Corridor, the TRIP project to connect Highway 58 and the Westside Parkway in the heart of Bakersfield.
Building these two bridges has been made more difficult because they lie in the Kern River, Topete said. Work was delayed last summer when an oversupply of rain caused water to gather in the normally dry riverbed.
Work could have begun then, but it would have been much more complex, involving diverting water away from the riverbed. So the contractor for the project, Security Paving, decided to wait, Topete said.
The Westside Parkway has been in planning stages for years, but it's expected to be done by the end of this year or in early 2013.