CalTrans: 'Need' more shoulder for rails along Kern Canyon roadway

2013: Canyon has 18 accidents already

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Rescue crews and a good Samaritan pulled a man to safety this morning after he drove over the edge of the canyon while driving on Highway 178.

The portion he drove over did not have guardrails.

In 2012, CHP said it handled 48 accidents in the canyon.  So far this year, there have been 18 accidents in the area.  According to officials these accidents are not only costing lives, but also taxpayer money.

"An incident we recently looked at for cost recovery estimated at about $2,000 in expenditures for crews and engines," said CMDR Dennis Smithson of the Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue.  "And then we had a helicopter up there for a couple of hours at $700 an hour."

That rescue alone cost at least $34,000.

Currently there are guardrails installed sporadically along Highway 178 in the canyon, but 23ABC asked CalTrans why not have more guardrails installed all throughout the canyon.

"A lot of those locations only have one or two feet of shoulder and we need more than that to properly and safely install guardrailing," said Smithson.  "Our posts need to have enough rigidity and integrity to withstand an out of control vehicle."

23ABC suggested building a concrete wall up the side of the hill in areas that are too steep and CalTrans said it wouldn't be 'feasable'.

"The cost of such a project would be astronomical," said Smithson. "And we would be dealing with environmental issues because we have a river directly adjacent to the freeway."

For now CalTrans said all they can do is put up signs.

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