“We’re closed. We’re really close,” Bakersfield City Manager Christian Clegg said in his address to the crowd gathered at the State of the City last week.
Clegg was referring to the city’s proximity to the proverbial finish line for its planning and construction progress on the Thomas Roads Improvement Program.
And while the end might be nigh, he knows it’s been a long time coming — and it’s important to recognize Clegg also was referring to a process that’s been going on for more than 15 years.
The “core components” are expected to be completed in the next 12 to 18 months, Clegg said. And it could be realistically 2026 before the final touches are complete.
The story of TRIP started in 2006, when the city found out it was receiving $630 million in federal appropriation for its roads, which it duly named after the man who secured the pork — as such congressionally designated funds are often called — now-retired Rep . Bill Thomas, R-Bakersfield.
Long after Thomas brought home the bacon, so to speak, Bakersfield is still planning projects with the money and looking to leverage the initial investment into more than $1.5 billion in upgrades when all is said and done, according to city officials. That total includes funding the city has secured through a variety of partnerships with entities like the Kern Council of Governments and Caltrans.
The most recent completed works Clegg mentioned during the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce event last Wednesday involve Rosedale Highway, which was widened from Calloway Drive to Verdugo Lane, a Stockdale Highway extension and the Kern River and Belle Terrace Bridge improvements.
“We also are very close … 86 percent construction completion, 78 percent respectively to the (Highway 58 connector) and the Centennial Corridor,” he said, adding he expects the freeway connector to be completed by this fall, and the corridor project by next summer.
Clegg had to stop for the applause at this point before adding: “It’s also worth pointing out we also found opportunities to leverage the TRIP program. We have a new project and a new concept which is to connect the Westside Parkway, Truxtun (Avenue) to the 99 and be able to free up some of that congestion that happens around California and Polk streets.”
The process has also been a learning experience for the city, according to Luis Topete, assistant public works director for Bakersfield.
He noted as Clegg had that the original plans were winding down, with a notable exception being the Hageman Road flyover, a bridge that will give the street an east-west path over Highway 99 and connect to Highway 204, which would bring traffic to F Street and Golden State Highway.
For that project, the city has $30 million set aside, about 43 percent of the expected cost.
That much funding already budgeted, Topete said, not only provides a strong motivation to find the remaining $40 million, it also makes it easier to leverage the city’s potential investment with the city’s partner agencies for road construction.
And since success begets success, he’d expect TRIP to continue in some form or another after its original 18 or so major projects are completed.
The city has the design work ready for the Hageman Road project, but Topete mentioned 2024 as a realistic start date and about two years for its completion.
“However, everybody recognizes the success of TRIP, with all the projects that were built in a relatively short time, and the partnerships, with Caltrans, with the state, with the county, and with Kern COG that made it all possible,” Topete said. “So there is a big desire to keep that relationship, that collaboration within all of the agencies that were a part of trying to do more.”