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Tuesday, Nov 05 2013 05:46 PM

Council to get update on 24th Street cul-de-sacs

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

The Bakersfield City Council will get an update Wednesday on plans to build cul-de-sacs on two so-called "tree streets" in its historic downtown, independently of widening 24th Street immediately north.

Residents on Spruce and Pine streets between 22nd and 24th streets have agreed unanimously that they want cul-de-sacs regardless of whether 24th Street is widened. The city will foot the bill, an as-yet unknown cost.

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The Bakersfield City Council meets at 5:15 p.m. at City Hall council chambers, 1501 Truxtun Ave. Meetings also may be viewed live on cable channel KGOV. Past meetings can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/qfatap5.

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Widening 24th Street to ease traffic through the city's core, a $50 million Thomas Roads Improvement Program project, has its preliminary design work complete, and awaits an Environmental Impact Report from Caltrans later this month.

If the widening goes forward, cul-de-sacs on Elm, B and C streets must be built. Elm Street, in fact, is already closed.

Cul-de-sacs on Beech, Myrtle, Spruce, Pine, Cedar and A streets are optional, depending on whether all homeowners on these streets, in the blocks between 22nd and 24th streets, agree -- and whether residents with corner lots on 24th Street donate part of their land.

In November 2012, the city council adopted a resolution allowing the eventual closing and construction of cul-de-sacs on Beech, Myrtle, Spruce, Pine, Cedar, A, B and C streets south of 24th Street.

Public Works Director Raul Rojas said his department's recommendation then was that the cul-de-sacs be done at the time 24th Street was widened.

"It was just a recommendation that we had done because we thought the project was very close," Rojas said of the widening, which won't begin construction until 2015. "We didn't want to disrupt the neighborhood twice if that was the case. They have the right to close it without the project."

"It's not the noise, it's the traffic. It's the traffic that comes through here at 40 miles per hour," said Cheryl Miller, who lives in the 2200 block of Spruce Street. "Any time there's an accident on 24th Street, they all start cutting through here."

Not everyone approves of adding cul-de-sacs or widening 24th Street. Vanessa Vangel delivered a letter to City Hall North late Tuesday requesting the city council reconsider its 2012 resolution.

"I oppose it for the following reasons. One, it's extremely unnecessary. Two, it's a waste of taxpayers' money. Three, it will disfigure the most historic neighborhood in Bakersfield. There are no traffic problems to fix," said Vangel, who called the cul-de-sacs "eyesores."

Ward 5 Councilman Harold Hanson, who asked for the report last month, said the cul-de-sacs, like widening 24th Street, should ultimately be positive changes.

"I appreciate the people who live in that area may have inconveniences. We just have to make these improvements. To not do them, it's a sin," Hanson said, adding that he was "a little surprised, in that I thought maybe we would wait on the EIR and see what was going on with 23th Street, 24th Street."

In other business, the council will consider spending $3.5 million to extend its contract one year with the company supplying city trash and recycling carts.

The council also will consider settling a nearly $1.4 million complaint against the city from a Westside Parkway contractor for $257,743.17.

MGE Underground of Paso Robles had said it was owed $1,366,775.37 for work it did during 2011 and 2012, moving utility lines underground where the Westside Parkway meets Allen Road.

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