Downtown pedestrians will soon have a new signalized crosswalk on 24th Street.
At its Dec. 13 meeting, the Bakersfield City Council approved construction of a signalized crosswalk at the intersection of 24th and Pine streets, with Councilman Ken Weir providing the only 'no' vote. The proposed crosswalk was put up for discussion after the elimination of two existing crosswalks on 24th Street was approved by the council in October due to a project that would widen the road from two lanes in each direction to three.
"My primary concern is pedestrian safety, but I'm also concerned with balancing the overall goals of the project with the needs of pedestrians," said Councilman Andrae Gonzales. "I'm convinced that we've come up with a compromise that will be beneficial and helpful for the overall project."
Vice Mayor Bob Smith also spoke out in favor of the crosswalk at the meeting.
"Providing a safe crossing will help reduce accidents in the area," he said. "I think it's definitely a step in the right direction. Perhaps we'll see more of these types of treatments in Bakersfield in the future."
The design for the new crosswalk would require pedestrians to cross each direction of traffic one at a time. The crosswalk will include a protected median so that pedestrians and bicyclists would cross to the median, walk down to the end of the median, activate a button and then finish crossing to the other side of 24th Street, according to plans presented at the meeting.
The signalization will be controlled by three stop lights that will be shaped like a T. When a pedestrian activates the signal, a flashing yellow light (the bottom light) will warn drivers that someone is crossing. Two lights above that one will then turn red, at which point the pedestrian can begin crossing.
The lights will stay black when no one is using the crosswalk, according to the plans.
Several residents in the Westchester neighborhood spoke in favor of the crosswalk at the meeting.
"Having a safe crosswalk would allow for my family and families like ours to have access to Jastro Park, Franklin Elementary," Katie Brewer said. "I'm really in favor of this crosswalk. I would use it all the time and I know several families who would as well. Please give us this for connection to our community."
Local resident Gary Enns said that while he would be happy to have one crosswalk on 24th Street, he wish there was an opportunity for more.
"If we're going to have one crosswalk, I want that crosswalk, but we are talking about 13 city blocks here. Is one crosswalk really enough?" he asked the council. "People will continue to cross where it's most convenient to them. I hope you consider the needs of pedestrians more in the future."
Terry Maxwell and a few other residents spoke against the crosswalk. Maxwell also said that more than one crosswalk is needed.
"I would like to see three crosswalks and really slow down the traffic so that we have a community that is nicely connected between the north side and the south side [of 24th Street]" he said. "Putting one crosswalk in is gratuitous. It's not taking us seriously at all."
With a projected speed of about 45 miles per hour on 24th Street after the project is completed, which would be a slight increase from the current 40 mph limit, Maxwell and others expressed concerns about the speed limit.
"If you go down this road of putting this crosswalk in and it comes back that the speed limit on [24th Street] is going to be 45 mph, I think you're going to have some major problems," he said. "You're going to set yourselves up for a pedestrian hit-and-run, because 45 miles per hour is what they're doing now, minimum. if you make it 45, then people will be doing 60 [mph]."
Maxwell said what it comes down to is that 24th Street is a residential street, not a freeway. He said he would like to see speeds of about 35 mph on the street.
"We don't want a freeway going through our neighborhood, and that's what you're proposing," he said. "It's a residential district, people. Give us what we deserve. Make this a nice, safe area for everybody."
Councilman Weir didn't speak at the meeting prior to the vote explaining his stance on the crosswalk.
No information was provided on when construction would take place or how long it would take. According to Public Works Director Nick Fidler, the crosswalk project is estimated to cost around $200,000.