Local News

Monday, May 06 2013 05:30 PM

Parkway's landscaping takes back seat to road construction

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Many involved in the city of Bakersfield and the Thomas Roads Improvement Program toss some dirt during Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony for Phase 6C of the Westside Parkway project.

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By The Bakersfield Californian

Artist renderings and videos of the city of Bakersfield's Westside Parkway project show green grass and landscaping on the sweeping approaches to interchanges and the sides of the route.

But that greenery was always planned as an add-on.

The companies that bid on the project's construction contract didn't promise to do the landscaping -- estimated to cost $10 million or more -- because the city never asked for the work to be done, said Janet Wheeler, spokesperson for the Thomas Roads Improvement Program.

The partnership of agencies involved in TRIP were always focused on the primary goal, she said -- building the city's first freeway in decades.

"The highest priority has been to complete the roadway and relieve traffic congestion," she said. "There was no funding for landscaping."

When construction bids on early phases of the project came in low thanks to a favorable bidding environment, TRIP leaders focused on building more of the project.

"Phase 2 was going to be Mohawk (Street) to Coffee (Road), and we made it out to Allen (Road)," Wheeler said.

Traditionally, Wheeler said, landscaping work is the last thing completed on a freeway project. The Westside Parkway is no different.

When the project opens later this year a bark covering will be spread on landscape areas while officials look for the money to put in greenery, she said.

That search is already underway.

"Staff are actively seeking grant funding," she said.

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