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24th Street widening sped up traffic and eased congestion, but left other promises behind

Posted at 6:18 PM, Mar 18, 2024

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — It was a project meant to reduce traffic and congestion in a heavily traveled area, but for some Westchester residents, the 24th Street widening didn't deliver on everything.

  • Video shows parts of 24th Street after the much anticipated widening project in 2018. The way the street is now, for nearby neighbors, is lacking in terms of landscape and safety.
  • The completion of the 24th Street Widening Project did speed things along on those roads, but for Westchester neighbor Terry Maxwell, it sped things up too much and left other promises in the dust.
  • City Public Works Director Gregg Strakaluse met with Maxwell to go over his concerns and is working on a walking audit of the area to see what improvements can be made to 24th Street.

It was a project meant to reduce traffic and congestion in a heavily traveled area, but for some Westchester residents, the 24th Street widening didn't deliver on everything.

Former city councilman and Westchester resident Terry Maxwell said this project — while completed — still leaves him and others in these homes wanting for improvement.

"This was the first neighborhood,” he said. “It was actually from what I understand built because of the railroad tracks and they were kind of all the homes that the workers lived in."

The homes on 24th Street hold a long history in Bakersfield. Maxwell lives off 24th and Pine streets in a neighborhood that's been around since the post-World War II expansion.

In 2018, the historic neighborhood received another expansion. One met with more pushback.

The 24th Street Widening Project was originally opposed by a group of Westchester residents concerned about noise, safety, and loss of historic infrastructure. While the project moved forward, Maxwell said some concerns remain.

"In about four blocks, the furthest right-hand lane is going to be eliminated, because what they had to do was narrow this to three lanes,” he said, describing traffic as we drove down F Street, getting ready to turn onto 24th. “But the way they have eliminated this right-hand lane is begging for people to run into each other."

Neighborhood News Reporter Veronica Morley speaking with Westchester neighbor and former city councilman Terry Maxwell about concerns regarding 24th Street.
Neighborhood News Reporter Veronica Morley speaking with Westchester neighbor and former city councilman Terry Maxwell about concerns regarding 24th Street.

Maxwell said since the project’s completion, factors of landscaping, beautification and safety has fallen flat. He said while the widening of 24th Street has moved traffic along, other issues have surfaced for drivers navigating the new layout.

"There have been plenty of accidents right in this area because everyone gets confused about what they're supposed to do,” he said, referring to 24th and Beech streets. “Also you see those three cars sitting there. Look at all those cars coming this way, how long do they have to wait to make that left-hand turn?”

The widening also brought into question the safety of these streets. According to the project's traffic accident analysis in 2010, from January 2005 to December 2007, these streets averaged around 55 accidents a year. According to Bakersfield Police, last year from Oak Street to H Street there were 50 accidents.

"At some point, you stop the traffic coming from this side and make it safe for them to come across, otherwise, people, can't time it very well,” Maxwell said.

City Public Works Director Gregg Strakaluse met with Maxwell to go over his concerns. Strakaluse said he’s working on a walking audit of the area to see what improvements can be made to 24th Street.

Rendering of 24th Street landscaping and current 24th Street East Island.

While he knows there's not much that can be changed now, Maxwell said he feels he and neighbors were let down when it came to the landscaping promises as well, something he thinks can still be improved.

He also thinks safety measures can still be added to the current design to reduce speeding and the potential for accidents.

Ward 2 City Councilman Andrae Gonzales said when it comes to aspect like landscaping, the city did fall short.

“I think we as a city did look at 24th Street as a gateway project for Downtown Bakersfield,” he said. “And it is lacking.”

Renderings of 24th Street Widening Project landscaping.


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