Community Voices

Thursday, Feb 07 2013 04:40 PM

Convoluted nomenclature of the Streets of Bakersfield

By The Bakersfield Californian

I recently saw an online news item about a Belgian woman who got lost and drifted into Croatia after many hours of driving because she blindly followed what the car's GPS told her to do. Maybe the GPS was simply fed the wrong information. Garbage in, garbage out.

This could happen to a stranger here in Bakersfield, with the way our streets are named. If he punched in "Panama Road" instead of "Panama Street," he would wind up navigating a desolate two-lane highway leading to Elk Hills, westbound. Panama Street is a residential street north of downtown and is not the same street as Panama Road, which is Taft Highway, or Panama Lane, which is a major east-west arterial. The "suffixes" are tricky, like Chester Avenue, Chester Lane and Chester Place, or Buena Vista Road and Buena Vista Street, which are located far from each other. Some streets have totally identical names but they are on different alignments. There's a Benton Street connecting Ming Avenue to Wilson Road. There's another Benton Street about 500 feet farther east which connects Wilson to Planz Road. This street should have been baptized with another name to avoid confusion. Same is true with Allen Road, whose name changes into Santa Fe Way after Hageman Road, going northbound. But the same name "Allen Road" is resurrected about 400 feet farther east from the original Allen.

On the other hand, a stretch of "road," "street," "avenue" or "boulevard," whatever, may have two or more different names. As you drive eastbound on Palm Street from Real Road, it becomes Fourth Street past H Street and, yes, Virginia, it morphs into Virginia Street after Mount Vernon Avenue. These road segments with different street names are on the same alignment all throughout. They should have adopted only one name for the whole stretch. The same situation is replicated in other parts of our city. Old River Road and Calloway Drive are one and the same. They are just being separated only by Stockdale Highway -- like Gosford Road and Coffee Road.

Stockdale Highway assumes a shocking transformation, nomenclature-wise, east of Wible Road. It is "demoted" into a mere lane --Brundage Lane -- although the two still have identical traffic characteristics. This intersection itself may be referred to in eight different combinations -- like Oak/Brundage, Wible/Stockdale, Oak/Stockdale, Wible/Brundage, etc., as the case may be.

Our present designation of street segments as a "street," "boulevard," "avenue," "road," "lane," "way," "drive" or whatever is a mystery that is as mind-boggling as the mystery of the Transfiguration. A residential street is aptly surnamed a "street," but there are lots of residential streets in our city which are designated otherwise. Noble Avenue, a residential street in northeast Bakersfield, is one of them. And there is nothing special about Noble to "upgrade" it as an "Avenue" in the first place.

A "boulevard" conjures an image of a beautiful, tree-lined major street where people stroll and drive leisurely. Old River Road, Buena Vista Road and Gosford Road, to name a few, should have been referred to as "boulevards." But unfortunately, they are just designated as "roads" -- an injustice in its highest category. On the other hand, there's nothing boulevardish about District Boulevard, unless you love ice cream or look for someone to fix your garage door.

White Lane is nonsensical and its name is without rhyme or reason. There's nothing white, literally or figuratively, about White Lane. A lane is tied to the imagery of a solitary and narrow passageway. White Lane is one of our six-lane, major arterials -- among the widest of all our arterial streets.

I am not advocating for a drastic revision of our street-naming system, though. This is just a speck in a poor man's horizon. Like the Lords of Bakersfield, the Streets of Bakersfield may have their own stories to tell.

Manuel D. Fuderanan is an engineer with the city of Bakersfield. He is a member of the American Institute of Transportation Engineers and a registered geodetic and civil engineer in the Philippines. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.

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