Local News

Wednesday, May 23 2012 05:34 PM

Report details impacts of 24th Street widening

BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer aboessenkool@bakersfield.com

Today it takes three to four minutes to drive along 24th Street from Buck Owens Boulevard to M Street during the evening rush hour.

In 2035, if the street isn't widened, that's expected to take 20 to 23 minutes.

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WANT TO KNOW MORE?

You can read a copy of the draft report at:

* TRIP's website, www.bakersfieldfreeways.us

* Caltrans website, www.dot.ca.gov/dist6/environmental/envdocs/d6

* Beale Memorial Library, 701 Truxtun Ave., Bakersfield, during regular library hours

And on weekdays, you can read the report at:

* The TRIP office, 900 Truxtun Ave., Bakersfield, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

* Kern Council of Governments, 1401 19th St., Bakersfield, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

* County of Kern Planning Department, 2700 M St., Suite 100, Bakersfield, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

* City of Bakersfield Planning Division, 1715 Chester Ave., Bakersfield, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

- Caltrans District 6 office, 1352 W. Olive Ave., Fresno, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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So the Thomas Roads Improvement Program office is planning to widen the roadway, which would reduce that rush-hour travel time in 23 years to seven or eight minutes, officials say.

A 590-page draft report released Wednesday lays out the project and its anticipated impacts on property, traffic, pedestrians, air quality, bike riders and a host of other parameters.

In general, the plans call for widening Rosedale Highway and 24th Street from the southbound Highway 99 ramp intersection to 0.2 miles east of M Street.

Specifically, the project would add an additional lane to 24th Street in each direction. It also would improve the Highway 99 southbound on-ramp, build a northbound auxiliary lane along Highway 99 south of 24th Street and improve approaches at the Oak Street/24th Street intersection.

Also, sound walls would be built in certain areas and the "S" curve between C Street and Drake Street would be modified. Concrete medians would be added to restrict some turns.

Two choices have been presented: widening 24th Street between Oak Street and D Street to the north or it to the south. But city staff have already recommended going with widening to the north, saying it would improve traffic flow and safety between Elm Street and D Street.

Both alternatives would involve tearing down homes, however. Widening to the north would require buying up 23 full and 29 partial parcels of property and would cut out 11 residential driveways that empty onto 24th Street. Widening to the south would require 23 full and 21 partial parcel buys.

Two public hearings are planned to take public comment and questions on the project.

The first will be from 4 to 7 p.m. June 26 in the Rabobank Convention Center lobby at 1001 Truxtun Ave. There will be maps and exhibits set up to show the results of technical studies. City and Caltrans staff will be there to answer questions, and a court reporter will take down comments.

The second hearing will be more formal, with TRIP staff making a presentation to the city Planning Commission. That will be 5:30 p.m. July 5 in city council chambers at 1501 Truxtun Ave. Members of the public will get a chance to give their comments for the record at this hearing, too.

You don't have to wait for one of the meetings to give your input. You can also submit comments until July 16 on the draft report to Bryan Apper, Caltrans, 855 M St., Suite 200, Fresno, California, 93721, or by email to bryan_apper@dot.ca.gov.

This will be a big year for TRIP projects, with about $94 million of the $630 million in federal money former Congressman Bill Thomas secured for the program being put to use. There will be construction on two other TRIP projects: an interchange at Highway 178 and Morning Drive and widening three miles of Highway 58 east of Highway 99.

Federal funds cover about half of the total cost of the TRIP projects, with Bakersfield and Kern County providing another third of the funding. Traffic impact fees assessed when construction permits are issued will be the main source of local dollars over approximately the next 20 years.

"These are definitely major milestones when the draft environmental impact report comes out because there's so much time and so much work that go into these studies," said Janet Wheeler of the TRIP office. "Now that that's done, it's an opportunity for the public to see what is done and weigh in on the project. We really encourage the public to provide input."

Wheeler said she hasn't heard opposition to the project yet, though several residents in the area who will be affected have been in close contact with the TRIP office about the project since planning began -- in 2008.

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