Caltrans’ plans to upgrade state highways in Eastern Kern were discussed during a virtual meeting of the Mojave Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 24.
Mark Heckman, senior transportation planner; and Catherine Carr, associate transportation planner from Caltrans District 9, which covers the Eastern California region, began their report with details of a two-year project to rehabilitate eight miles of the Antelope Valley Freeway (Highway 14) between Mojave and Rosamond.
Completed in the 1960s, the four-lane highway has been showing its age for some time.
Heckman said work on the freeway is expected to commence in early October.
The work will impact travel on the busy route used by local commuters and visitors to Eastern California attractions, Heckman said.
The project “will be a sizable disruption” of normal traffic, the veteran engineer noted.
To rebuild the highway, traffic will be shifted to the northbound lanes until work on the southbound lanes is completed, narrowing traffic to one lane each way.
“That should be completed around June,” Heckman said.
Traffic will be shifted to the southbound lanes until work on the northbound lanes is completed in December, he said.
Activity on the increasingly busy freeway will be performed from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Thursdays, Heckman said.
“It will end at 3 p.m. on Fridays to handle the weekend tourist travel,” he said.
In addition to rebuilding the roadway, culverts, shoulders, signs and other features will also be upgraded, Heckman reported.
A virtual public meeting describing the project will be presented at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The meeting link is: http://tinyurl.com/y3ulxqpv, or by calling 408.418.9388. The password is 146 795 5145.
Headquarters for the project will be in the former Kieffe and Sons Ford dealership building on Sierra Highway in Mojave.
Tehachapi truck lanes
Planning is underway on what is perhaps the most problematic transportation route in Kern County, Heckman said.
That’s Highway 58 between Tehachapi and Bakersfield.
Built in the 1950s, the busy route, which handles heavy east and westbound truck traffic, is, with the nearby UP/BNSF railway line, a major national goods movement corridor.
Its major drawback is a long, slow, two-lane eastbound climb out of Bakersfield that slows 18-wheelers to a crawl that often brings traffic almost to a halt when one slow rig tries to creep past another, blocking traffic.
Planning for the project began in March 2019, and Beckman said District 9 staff has applied for a $7 million grant to complete an environmental report for the massive project, which has been broken down into three segments.
If awarded, work on the study could begin in July, 2021, Heckman told his digital audience. He said the East Kern project is competing with two projects in West Kern for funding.
The effort is the first big step in upgrading the busy highway.
I suggested Beckman take the folks deciding who gets the money up and down the highway a few times.
The project has the support of highway users, especially East Kern drivers, and communities along the route from Barstow to Bakersfield.
Construction could begin in 2026.
Walking and cycling
District 9 residents in Kern County will soon have an opportunity to share their views on facilities for walking and bicycling in the region, Heckman said.
A “Location-based Needs Survey” will be conducted to determine where work is needed to improve safety and other aspects of traveling for people who do not use motor vehicles.
Heckman said that information and opinions gathered during the study will help District staff decide where to make improvements to streets and sidewalks.
“We want ideas from people who walk and bike local streets,” he said.
A member of the audience pointed out the need for sidewalks along Sierra Highway from Mono Street to the Mountain View Plaza shopping center.
A previous project to install sidewalks for the use of pedestrians, many with small children, was not completed in front of the former Kieffe & Sons Ford, crossing the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to Trona, and a truck stop.
Heckman said “all comments are welcome — we got constructive comments from visitors from Romania and Germany when we conducted one of these surveys in Lone Pine.”
Heckman and Carr alerted their audience to the District’s Web page, which offers information unique to all of the state’s other districts.
It’s available at https://dot.ca.gov/district-9/https://dot.ca.gov/caltrans-near-me/district-9/ and has links to current and planned projects, like one to upgrade Highway 58 from four-lane expressway to a four-lane freeway between Boron and Mojave.
Cost is estimated at $61 million, and it’s in the planning stage with no construction dates set.
Check out this informative Web page.
Technology over politics
Governor Newsom’s announcement, following one by his predecessor, that California will favor clean electric vehicles beginning in 2035 got the expected response from Kern County politicians.
As I noted recently, this is a technology, rather than a political, issue.
If the governor took no action, the result would probably be the same.
Some folks are concerned that ending fuel sales will eliminate highway funding.
Governments all over the world are moving to taxing mileage rather than fuel sales, which are already dwindling due to more efficient petroleum-powered cars, like my 32 to 40 mpg Fiesta.
As many people continue to work from home as the COVID tragedy winds down fuel sales will continue to drop.
Regardless of the politicians.
‘Electric Model T’
Introduction of an “Electric Model T” will mean the end of carbon fuel for travel and it will be developed by bright people like those working in hangars and garages in places like our Aerospace Valley.
By the way, no one will be forced to buy electric vehicles, whose purchase and operating costs will eventually be lower than those for petroleum fueled cars.
To really understand this issue, visit a dealer for a test drive.