The Centennial Corridor has begun rising out of the ground after decades of opposition, study and preparation.
Nearly all the homes and businesses that stood in the shade of the freeway’s path have been demolished, leaving a tidy path of destruction through the Westpark neighborhood between California Avenue and Stockdale Highway.
That path will become a major freeway connection between the dead end western tip of Highway 58 and the eastern end of the Westside Parkway.
When the work is done, as soon as 2021, Bakersfield will have its first freeway linking the city’s east side to its west.
Kris Budak, a senior civil engineer with the Thomas Roads Improvement Program, said the City of Bakersfield is still working to finish the acquisition and demolition of all the private properties that will need to be removed to site the freeway.
All the single-family homes have been acquired, she said, and the city is in the midst of finalizing agreements with the remaining commercial properties.
At the same time, Budak said, engineers are working to finalize the exact design of the Centennial Cooridor’s mainline route from Commerce Drive south through Westpark to its eventual meeting with Highway 58.
Right now the most obvious work is going on at the intersection of the Westside Parkway and Truxtun Extension.
For months heavy earthmovers have been building up hills of fill dirt that will become the launching pads for the sweeps of concrete that will jump the Kern River and link the future freeway to Mohawk Drive and the Westside Parkway.
They’re called the river bridges.
Budak said one bridge will be an off-ramp that runs to the east of the current Truxtun Avenue bridges from the Centennial Corridor and links to northbound Mohawk Street.
The other bridges, she said, will land between the two Truxtun Avenue bridges and make the eastbound and westbound connections between Highway 58 traffic and the Westside Parkway.
The earthwork embankments that have been built will anchor the southern end of the bridges, Budak said.
Heavy pillars of concrete and rebar are currently being raised to support the bridges over the river.
“Once we get ready to go over the river that’s where we get ready to go onto structure(s),” she said.
And workers are laboring to widen the parkway as well in anticipation of the increased traffic that will flow from Highway 58 onto the route.
But there are years of work ahead.