Bakersfield planners take final public comments on 24th St. upgrade

Bakersfield planners take final public comments on 24th St. upgrade »Play Video

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The 24th Street widening project has been years in the making, and in just a few short months, a final decision on the plans is scheduled to be made. Now, two groups of residents are speaking out about what they want to see happen to the roadway.

Members of the group "Stop the 24th Street Freeway" say they would like to see the road stay the size it is instead of being widened to six lanes, taking out houses on either the north or south side of the street. Chuck Dickson is part of that group and said it's time to consider how the project will affect residents of downtown Bakersfield.

"Why not let the 'no build' be a new alternative? A 'no build' meaning four lanes with improvements, changes to the existing roadway that make it an actual improvement and a way to a method by which we improve the quality of life in the area," Dickson said.

Dickson said more than 350 people have aligned themselves with his group's position, requesting information about their stance. But his isn't the only group speaking out about changing the project. 

Wayne Kress is a member of "Do it right. Do it now." it's a coalition of neighbors that organized in the end of June. They have devised a plan that they believe will improve upon the plans to widen the street. Kress said if the city is going to increase the size of 24th Street and remove homes in the process, it will be important to add cul-de-sacs, landscaping to either side of the street and the median and bike lanes to the project.

"The changes we recommend would have 24th Street look more like Old River Road or really a number of other arterioles in west Bakersfield than the wreck it is today," Kress said.

With so much effort already put into the project by Caltrans planners, can these last minute requests make an impact on the designs? Janet Wheeler with the Thomas Roads Improvement Project said the concerns of citizens are an important part of the process.

"We have spoken to a few people and we have accepted their plans as part of the public comment period. The public comment period extends until July 16. At that time, the project development team will be looking at all of the public comments that have been submitted, including the ones that have been submitted with alternate plans," Wheeler described. "Public input is very important and all of the comments are considered."

One more hearing on the 24th Street widening project will be held in the fall. That's when the Planning Commission will submit its plan recommendation to the Bakersfield City Council. City leaders hope to have a final decision by the end of 2012.