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Casey Christie / The Californian

Many involved in the city of Bakersfield and the Thomas Roads Improvement Program toss some dirt during Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony for Phase 6C of the Westside Parkway project.

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Photo Illustration courtesy of Thomas Roads Improvement Program A state commission last week approved $24 million for the Truxtun Tie-in - the upper portion of roads featured in this photo illustration - which is part of Bakersfield's Westside Parkway project. The roadway cutting through the middle of the picture is the Mohawk Street Extension, currently under construction. Truxtun Avenue runs alongside the riverbed on the right side of the picture, where it will connect with the Mohawk extension and, closer to downtown, the Truxtun Tie-in. The Westside Parkway itself, a new east-west freeway now under construction, is seen in the lower left of the picture, below the Mohawk extension. The freeway will carry drivers west to Allen Road and, eventually, beyond.

Artist renderings and videos of the city of Bakersfield's Westside Parkway project show green grass and landscaping on the sweeping approaches to interchanges and the sides of the route.

But that greenery was always planned as an add-on.

The companies that bid on the project's construction contract didn't promise to do the landscaping -- estimated to cost $10 million or more -- because the city never asked for the work to be done, said Janet Wheeler, spokesperson for the Thomas Roads Improvement Program.

The partnership of agencies involved in TRIP were always focused on the primary goal, she said -- building the city's first freeway in decades.

"The highest priority has been to complete the roadway and relieve traffic congestion," she said. "There was no funding for landscaping."

When construction bids on early phases of the project came in low thanks to a favorable bidding environment, TRIP leaders focused on building more of the project.

"Phase 2 was going to be Mohawk (Street) to Coffee (Road), and we made it out to Allen (Road)," Wheeler said.

Traditionally, Wheeler said, landscaping work is the last thing completed on a freeway project. The Westside Parkway is no different.

When the project opens later this year a bark covering will be spread on landscape areas while officials look for the money to put in greenery, she said.

That search is already underway.

"Staff are actively seeking grant funding," she said.