Roadwork is making something of a mess of Bakersfield commutes these days.
But officials say the work is paving the way for something good.
California Avenue has been constricted for weeks to one lane between Oak and H Streets, including Bakersfield High School’s entire southern boundary, as construction crews rebuild the roadway just feet from creeping cars and trucks.
Construction at the interchange of Highway 99 and Highway 58 continues on a critical new bridge.
And more work is coming on the Westside Parkway and the 24th Street widening project.
Drivers should settle in for continued disruptions as the City of Bakersfield and Caltrans clear the way for Bakersfield’s expanding transportation system.
One of the biggest messes in the city right now is California Avenue between Oak Street and H Street — a major link between southwest Bakersfield and the city’s downtown.
City of Bakersfield Public Works Director Nick Fidler said the outside lanes of the road were severely damaged and it needed to be scraped down to the road base and rebuilt.
Years of repeated repair — layer after layer of additional asphalt — have actually caused problems too.
“It had been overlaid so many times there was virtually no median,” Fidler said.
The city tried to be tactical about when it did the project, he said.
“We tried to get in there and do it during the summer, while school was out,” Fidler said.
Contractors have been rebuilding one lane of the route while traffic moves through on the other lane.
Once both lanes have been rebuilt, Fidler said, the whole route will be capped and finished up.
“They’re moving fairly fast,” he said of the contractors. “We are striving to get done before school starts. It looks like we’ll make it.”
HIGHWAY 58-99 INTERCHANGE
Drivers on Highway 99 and Highway 58 have watched massive retaining walls go up and driven along cramped lanes for many long months.
But the goal behind all that mess is getting closer to completion.
Luis Topete, project engineer on the Beltway Operational Improvement Project, said construction of the retaining walls and the realignment work that have long been underway is aimed at creating a new bridge to carry traffic from both northbound and southbound Highway 99 onto eastbound Highway 58.
But, you might ask, isn’t there already a ramp that does that? Yes, Topete said, there is.
But this connection will raise the connecting traffic into the air on an overpass, making room for a critical offramp for the Centennial Corridor to be built beneath it.
“It took all those retaining walls out there to allow for the space to do this ramp,” Topete said.
Janet Wheeler, spokesperson for the Thomas Roads Improvement Program, said the contractors are getting close to laying the road deck for that bridge.
All the work, he said, is making way for future construction of the Centennial Corridor, which will link the Westside Parkway to what is now a dead end — the site of the since-razed Wild West Shopping Center, where Highway 58 meets Highway 99.
Topete said the Centennial Corridor will include an eastbound off-ramp to H Street and that will be constructed underneath the Highway 99 to Highway 58 bridge.
Things are currently quiet on the other end of the Centennial Corridor project, where the Westside Parkway and Truxtun Avenue connect.
But they won’t stay that way.
Right now drivers coming off the eastbound Westside Parkway run right into some traffic as the right lane of Truxtun Avenue is closed.
Construction on the ramps and bridges that will eventually connect the two routes to the Centennial Corridor has already begun.
Topete said that work is going to disrupt travel significantly on the current onramps and offramps and, to a lesser extent, travel on the Westside Parkway.
People should be ready for it.
“In a few months there will be a lot of activity,” he said.
Wheeler said the public will also see more work on the 24th Street widening project.
Plans call for sound walls to be built between the arterial route and the Westchester neighborhood.
Late this summer that work will start.
“We’re planning to do the walls along the north side in the next couple months,” Wheeler said.
And finally some good news.
Some media outlets are reporting that Cal Fire officials are poised to reopen Highway 166 between Maricopa and Santa Maria.
The route is a major link between Kern County and California’s Central Coast – specifically the wine country around Santa Ynez and the coast around Pismo Beach.
David Dantic, a public information officer assigned to the Alamo Fire, would not confirm Wednesday morning that the closure would be lifted.
But he said the Alamo Fire is more than halfway contained and the mandatory evacuations for the fire area have been downgraded to a recommendation.