Bakersfield gets money to move forward with Centennial Corridor, 24th Street widening

Bakersfield gets money to move forward with Centennial Corridor, 24th Street widening »Play Video

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Bakersfield city officials have gotten the green light to move forward in acquiring properties in two major road projects.

The city has secured $165 million from the federal government to start early acquisition of properties that stand in the path of the Centennial Corridor.

The city also received $15.9 million from the federal government to purchase 23 homes in the path of the 24th Street widening project. That project has already had an environmental impact report approved by the City Council, and the city can use the power of eminent domain to acquire properties.

"The city is a willing buyer if you're a willing seller," said former Congressman Bill Thomas at a news conference at City Hall North, speaking of the big Centennial Corridor project.

In 2005, while he was in office, Thomas was able to secure $720 million for road improvement projects in Kern County. The bulk of that money, $630 million is being used for projects in the greater Bakersfield area.

Under the early acquisition federal program, cities are allowed to purchase properties from homeowners willing to sell.

Early acquisition allows owners to voluntarily sell and relocate if they wish.

City Manager Alan Tandy said the city has already gotten inquiries from 75 property owners who have shown an interest in early acquisition.

The Centennial Corridor is designed to connect Highway 58 at Real Road with the Westside Parkway. But to do so, the path of the Centennial Corridor would take out numerous homes in the Westpark neighborhood.

For years, neighbors opposed to the project have done battle with the city to keep the corridor from going through their neighborhood or being forced to eventually sell their homes.

"The argument about whether or not the Centennial Corridor is going to built is over," said Thomas.

Properties acquired would not be demolished unless and until an environmental impact review process is complete. Tandy said the properties would be preserved and monitored, and in most cases made available for rent.

If the Centennial Corridor is not approved, the properties would be sold, with the proceeds going to the city and federal government.

"Before the summer is out, we will have the environmental impact report, and we will be completely and fully underway," said Thomas.