Local News

Tuesday, Jan 21 2014 05:32 PM

Caltrans urges construction of 204-Hageman connection

BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

A study by Caltrans released Tuesday urges construction of the so-called Hageman Flyover to relieve congestion in northwest Bakersfield.

But the city doesn't yet have the money to build it.

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Read the Initial Study online at http://tinyurl.com/lqphxa9 or at the Beale Memorial Library, 701 Truxtun Ave., or TRIP offices, on the third floor of City Hall North, 1600 Truxtun Ave.

Lend your voice at a public information meeting 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 4 in Jacobson Hall at Beardsley Junior High School, 1001 Roberts Lane.

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The flyover would connect Golden State Highway/Highway 204 to the east end of Hageman Road over Highway 99.

The Caltrans Initial Study -- the equivalent of an Environmental Impact Report -- finds that if the four-lane roadway is built, traffic on Highway 99 between Olive Drive and Golden State Avenue and at key northwest intersections would remain acceptable, with minimal delays, through 2035.

Without the connection between northwest and central Bakersfield, "motorists already experiencing slow traffic during peak morning and evening hours would encounter more traffic congestion and longer delays," the report says, noting that accidents could increase accordingly.

Building the highway connection would require buying one whole business, a truck repair shop, as well as parts of "industrial and water facilities owned by the Kern County Water Agency," and other vacant land -- but no residential properties.

Caltrans, which is the lead agency handling the project, will host a public information meeting Feb. 4 to receive comments on it. After a comment period that ends Feb. 21, the agency will decide whether to approve the study or do more investigation.

According to City Manager Alan Tandy, the project would cost Bakersfield $3.8 million to design, $5.8 million to buy property, and $55 million to actually build.

There's just one problem: while the Hageman Flyover is a Thomas Roads Improvement Program project -- part of the series of city infrastructure improvements named for former U.S. Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Bakersfield, who secured $630 million in federal earmarks to pay for many of them -- it's not all actually paid for with the federal money.

According to Public Works Director Raul Rojas, 89 percent of Hageman design and property purchases would be funded by TRIP money, with the city paying the other 11 percent.

But construction costs are not covered by TRIP money, and while the Bakersfield City Council approved extending Mohawk Street north to Hageman Road in September, Tandy said the city doesn't have the money to build the Hageman Flyover immediately to the east.

"The Hageman construction is not funded. It is to be taken to being shovel-ready, with property acquisition and design, but the construction is not funded," Tandy said.

He added that city officials have discovered that having projects all ready to go can be "helpful" if, for example, Caltrans were to suddenly discover it had federal money it was unable to spend.

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