Early acquisitions for the Centennial Corridor project won't happen as soon as Bakersfield city staff had hoped for, the city's real property manager told a gathering of the Bakersfield Association of Realtors Thursday.

The city will have to buy about 200 homes in the pathway of the Centennial Corridor freeway if Caltrans' preferred route for the project is built. The project is meant to extend Highway 58 west and link it to the Westside Parkway and eventually to Interstate 5. Alternative B would cut through the middle of the Westpark neighborhood, southwest of California Avenue and Highway 99.

City staff applied to Caltrans last fall for permission to make early acquisitions for the project, well before a final decision is made on which route to build. That step is allowed under the federal transportation bill signed last year. Caltrans told city staff it could grant that approval as soon as March.

Now it looks like the city won't get permission for early acquisitions until at least a few months later, Don Anderson, the city's real property manager, said Thursday.

"We had hoped that we may have received the yea or nay by now, but we haven't," Anderson said. Caltrans most recently indicated approval for early acquisitions now won't happen until "late spring or early summer," Anderson added later. He said he understands that to mean April, May or June.

It would be optional for Westpark homeowners to sell their homes to the city before a final decision is made on the project. Homes wouldn't be torn down until after Caltrans' final decision, and that's not expected until spring 2014. Residents who want to sell their homes early could still end up living in them until they are torn down for the project, essentially as tenants of the city, Anderson said.

Ted Wright, the city's manager for the Thomas Roads Improvement Program, told the Realtors association that the anticipated date for Caltrans to release the draft environmental document for the project "keeps sliding." That key document would outline the project in detail. The draft document is now expected to come out in early summer, Wright said, a change from the earlier-anticipated date of late spring.

In the meantime, Wright directed people to call 326-3238 at the Thomas Roads Improvement Program office for questions about acquisitions.