After years of planning, Caltrans has announced which proposed alternative it prefers for the Centennial Corridor Project in Bakersfield. It's the route that would connect State Route 58 to the Westside Parkway and eventually, Interstate 5. But, the plans also include removing hundreds of homes and businesses.
What Caltrans recommends would cost $720 million. They say that's $100 million cheaper than the next alternative. But, it will cost more than 400 people their homes and businesses.
Former Congressman Bill Thomas supports Caltrans' choice. It's Alternative "B" to extend State Route 58 to the northwest before connecting with the eastern end of the Westside Parkway at Truxtun.
"Bakersfield had been overlooked for a long time," said Thomas. "The idea that a major east-west freeway would dead-end into a major north-south road makes no sense except here in the Central Valley."
Thomas secured over $725 million in federal TRIP dollars before he left office in 2006.
Caltrans Project Manager, Steven Milton, says the other alternatives would have cut through a historic area and parks, which is not allowed.
However, Alternative B is in the path of 310 homes and 121 businesses.
"Most of the alternatives have pretty significant impacts to the residential and the businesses," said Milton. "Alt "C" seems to be more business oriented impacts. Alt "A" actually has most residential impact."
Home and business owners would be given fair market value for their homes along with moving expenses. Still, Milton expects friction moving forward.
"We have to take what the best for the whole area, the City of Bakersfield, the County of Kern, and what is best for the freeway system. And, it is going to be difficult for some people, and we understand that and are going to try to make it as easy as possible for them," said Milton.
"So, anyone who's been here for almost 50 years, as I have, the answer is thank goodness we now have a clear route to what we've needed for 40 years," said Thomas.
There is a public information meeting scheduled for December 6th to answer any questions and go over the alternative. It's scheduled to be at the Kern County Administrative Building rotunda at 1115 Truxtun, from 4 to 7 pm.
Milton says the the draft environmental document should come out in April.