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By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian
BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer email@example.com
City officials want the public to continue enjoying the Westside Parkway, but to slow down so they don't go flying off the loop that is the eastbound off-ramp to Truxtun Avenue.
Wednesday marked the second time a car slid off the ramp and onto the embankment. There are no guard rails on the loop, but there soon will be.
Assistant Public Works Director Nick Fidler said the guard rails should be installed in the next four to five weeks at a cost of about $39,000. The ramp is already built to Caltrans standards and doesn't require a guard rail, but Fidler said the city decided to install it as well as flashing beacon lights to warn drivers the freeway is ending.
Speed seems to be the problem. Fidler said some motorists are taking the off-ramp much faster than they should -- the freeway limit is 65 mph -- instead of slowing down to 35 mph as signs there say for the almost 360-degree loop.
Both instances where vehicles went off the road occurred at night. Fidler said the drivers must not have been paying attention to the speed reduction signs.
"A lot of them are still continuing at close to freeway speeds," he said.
Bakersfield Police Department spokeswoman Michaela Sims said the latest car to go over the embankment was a stolen 2009, black, two-door BMW reported last seen in the 12000 block of Damask Street. The BMW driver took the Truxtun Avenue exit about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, struck a city sign and went over the off-ramp, stopping on the south side of the embankment.
By the time officers arrived, the driver had left and the keys were still in the ignition. The investigation is ongoing.
The number of citations police have handed out since the parkway opened Aug. 2 was not immediately available Thursday, but in the first weekend after its opening there were 36 citations issued, mostly for speeding.
The parkway begins at Truxtun Avenue in the east and ends at Allen Road in the west, with interchanges at Truxtun Avenue, Mohawk Street, Coffee Road, Calloway Drive and Allen Road. Fidler said he's heard "very positive" feedback from those who have traveled it.
The Westside Parkway is the city's first new freeway since the completion of Highway 58 in 1976. Work began in March on what for now is its final segment, extending the parkway west to the intersection of Heath Road and Stockdale Highway.
That stretch is expected to open in 2014. The city wants to one day connect the parkway to Interstate 5.