Local News

Tuesday, Apr 22 2014 04:41 PM

New freeway sprinklers a month behind schedule

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Parts of Highway 178, shown in a February 2014 file photo, are to get new sprinklers.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

Caltrans' $2.2 million roll-out of new sprinkler controllers on Bakersfield highways -- part of its plan to use less water following Gov. Jerry Brown's January drought declaration -- is about 30 days behind schedule, officials said Tuesday.

About 66 Toro Sentinel controllers are destined for areas of Highways 99, 178 and 58, with the aim of helping Caltrans water highway landscaping in Kern County at least 50 percent less.

Unfortunately the estimated 60-day project now likely won't be completed before the start of summer, members of the state transportation agency told more than a dozen public officials at the monthly Keep Bakersfield Beautiful meeting.

"We mentioned it was a 60-day project knowing it would go over. It is going over," Jay Asistin, Caltrans maintenance supervisor, told members of KBB and Caltrans' freeway litter committee. "Everything on the freeway -- mostly it's a mystery as far as wiring, piping, so we're digging."

The Sentinels will do better than Caltrans' current controllers at shutting down broken water lines and alerting workers, and turning off when it rains -- but the days of lush freeway shoulders are gone, for now.

As long as the drought continues, Caltrans crews will replace dead vegetation with mulch, Asistin said.

In response to pointed questions from Ward 6 Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan, who said she asked a year ago when landscaping would be improved, KBB's John Enriquez said he'll invite John Liu, Caltrans District 6 director of maintenance and operations, to the next meeting to get some answers.

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