Q: I am not a resident of the Westpark area, but I am concerned about the residents who live in that area.

The new highway extension has to go through that area in order to save Saunders Park. Out of curiosity, I drove past Saunders Park and noticed a fire station that appears to be located on the Saunders Park property.

Was the fire station there first or was the park there first? If an exception was made for the fire station, can’t an exception be made for the highway? The impact on Westpark home owners seems excessive compared to the other plan to put the highway on or near Saunders Park.    

— Dick Sloan

A: First, a little background: The California Department of Transportation has said its preferred route for the Centennial Corridor highway project is Alternative B through the Westpark neighborhood southwest of California Avenue and Highway 99. It’s controversial, especially with Westpark residents, because it would take down about 200 homes, plus businesses, churches and schools.

Caltrans staff have recommended Alternative B because a federal law requires that the project avoid public parks and historic areas when possible. Alternative C, which would run along Highway 99, would slice off part of Saunders Park.

The park came first. Saunders Park was built in 1957, and Bakersfield Fire Station No. 3 was built in 1984, according to Recreation and Parks Director Dianne Hoover and Fire Chief Ross Kelly. Although the fire station sits next to the park’s entrance, both on the north side of Palm Street, the fire station is on its own piece of property, not park property, Hoover said.

“They didn’t take park land to build the fire station,” Hoover said. “The park was dedicated (when it opened) at 11.26 acres and is still (that size) today.” The boundaries of the park haven’t changed, she added.

It is possible to cut into a park to add a fire station after the park is built, said Hoover and Ken Trone, planning construction manager in the parks department. In that case, the city is required, by its own rule, to add equal park land elsewhere. But the federal rule protecting a park altogether from impacts by a highway project supercedes the city’s rule. It says public parks have to be avoided altogether if there’s another route.

Q: I notice all around town that some street names are in all capital letters on signs while others just have the first letter capitalized. What is the purpose of this and is there any significance to it?

— Greg Paradis

A: Caltrans has changed its design standard for signs so street names start with an upper-case letter and continue with lower-case ones because they are easier to read, said Ryan Starbuck, a traffic engineer for the city of Bakersfield.

So the city is incorporating the change when installing new signs, he said.

Ask The Californian appears on Mondays. Submit questions to asktbc@bakersfield.com or to The Bakersfield Californian, c/o Christine Bedell, P.O. Bin 440, Bakersfield, CA 93302.