BAKERSFIELD, CA--It's been an idea for nearly three decades, but four years ago, construction started on a six-lane freeway in Bakersfield.
But, come Friday morning, five miles of the Westside Parkway will open to the public, a project city officials say will change Bakersfield forever.
In the 1980's, the city preserved land for a future freeway. But, city officials say they weren't sure if it would ever be built, due to money issues.
"There's nothing as far as freeways to the west of town," said Engineer Luis Topete.
Final touches are underway before the second phase of the Westside Parkway opens.
Topete helped design the project seven years ago. Since then, two phases have been constructed, including the Mohawk Street extension.
"It will be a lot easier and more efficient to move from west Bakersfield to downtown with this project for sure," said Topete.
When the first five miles open, it will take you from Truxtun Avenue to Allen Road.
City officials say come next fall, the third phase will be finished, connecting you from Allen Road to the intersection of Heath Road and Stockdale Highway.
"We're talking about probably 30 years since we saw the last freeway being built," Topete continued.
City officials say the project has cost about $170 million, paid for by the city and state.
They say the last phase will be $30 million and will only have two lanes in each direction.
But until then, the city plans to celebrate a major accomplishment decades in the making.
"We're changing the way traffic moves in Bakersfield, especially the west side, the west side of Bakersfield," said Topete.
A ribbon cutting ceremony begins at 10 a.m. Friday at the Coffee Road interchange bridge.
The public is invited to attend.
Crews with the Thomas Roads Improvement program want to remind everyone that the freeway won't open until around 2 p.m. Friday.