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Sunday, Apr 27 2014 04:00 PM

Ask TBC: What will block drivers from veering into the new downtown cul-de-sacs?

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Workers are busy at this blocked off intersection of 24th Street and A Street Tuesday.

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By The Bakersfield Californian

Q: What type of barrier will be installed to keep drivers from driving over the new cul-de-sacs being built heading east on 24th Street?

-- Darlyn Baker

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GOT A QUESTION?

What are you curious about? Seriously, it can cover just about anything -- as long as it's local, interesting and of broad community interest. Send your questions to asktbc@bakersfield.com or to The Bakersfield Californian, c/o Christine Bedell, P.O. Bin 440, Bakersfield, CA 93302. You may also call 395-7417.

Q: The "tree" streets on the south side of 24th Street are now closed and being converted to cul-de-sacs. What about the seven alleys and several driveways that empty onto 24th along that stretch? Will they remain open? I almost hit a car making a right turn into one of those alleys.

-- Kevin Sargent

A: The controversial 24th Street widening is still in its early stages. City officials are beginning to buy the pieces of property they'll need to widen the street from two and three lanes in either direction to three and four lanes.

The city of Bakersfield has been sued by a group seeking to block the widening, although city officials have said the lawsuit most likely will not stop the project.

Acting Public Works Director Nick Fidler said permanent curbing will prevent 24th Street drivers from turning onto streets with cul-de-sacs.

"When the 24th Street widening comes along, they'll install curbs and gutters along the whole south side of 24th Street and then there will be a row of landscaping, sidewalk and another row of landscaping," Fidler said.

Alleys will remain open, Fidler said, in part because city trash trucks need them to pick up garbage. They'll get a better turning radius, though, Fidler said -- altering the mouths of the alleys where they intersect 24th Street to make them easier for drivers to enter.

Fidler said driveways on the north side of 24th Street will be removed as part of the widening project. He was unaware of any driveways still used by residents on the south side of 24th Street.

Q: We live in the northwest and are wondering why they are replacing all four cement corners at Hageman and Old Farm roads and also at Hageman and Jewetta Avenue. The old corners looked good to us, except one corner on Jewetta had no cement.

-- Donna and Gary Miller

A: Acting Bakersfield Public Works Director Nick Fidler fielded this one:

The city of Bakersfield has a Capital Improvement Program project to install traffic signals at the intersections of Hageman Road at Jewetta Avenue and Hageman Road at Old Farm Road. The installation of the traffic signal pole foundations, conduits and equipment require removal of the concrete within the curb returns for their installation.

In addition, it is the city's policy to upgrade the access ramps to current Americans with Disabilities Act standards when a project impacts the ramp area.

Editor's note: A reader recently took us to task for writing about a Bakersfield Police Department warning that a mountain lion might have been spotted on the west side of town. He said the animal clearly was a harmless bobcat.

He ended by asking why we weren't writing about something more dangerous in the area: people repeatedly setting the Kern river bottom on fire.

So we asked Bakersfield Fire Chief Doug Greener about what's going on with that, and here's his response:

River bottom fires are not uncommon, unfortunately. The Bakersfield Fire Department deals with them fairly frequently in the warmer months, particularly where more people live and congregate (developments, parks, bike path, etc.) near the drainage. They can be a good deal of work, because amongst the lighter, dried grasses that burn off fairly quickly, there are a number of heavier fuels like cottonwoods and brush and take much longer to overhaul.

Generally, fires in this area are not accidental, per se. Someone sets them, either maliciously or carelessly. We see a number of fires that occur in homeless encampments due to cooking or some other activity.

Aside from the general threat to wildlife, air quality and watershed, there is a significant danger to people and improvements, too. Fires in the river bottom move through thick, tall grass very rapidly, and anyone camped out in those areas, or even passing through on a trail, could be at serious risk of being burned-over. Flying embers also pose a threat to some housing developments when low humidity, local winds and other conditions are present.

The BFD Arson Unit investigates those fires, and actively cites folks that are engaged in any open burning in the river bottom. The problem is that with the ongoing volume of serious court traffic, and the transient nature of those cited, these cases are not generally a high priority on the enforcement end.

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