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Centennial Corridor is opening, does that mean an end to neighbors frustrations?

Posted at 9:23 PM, Feb 09, 2024
  • Video shows the newly unveiled Centennial Corridor project, where it will run from, and whether or not it will ease neighbors concerns.
  • Years in the making coming to fruition as the nearly two decade-long project was finally completed.
  • But progress for some meant pain for others. Neighbors like Ruth Zoniga

A line of vehicles exited the new highway, ringing in to brand new Centennial Corridor. While this was a momentous moment for the City of Bakersfield for the residents who have been living under this construction zone for years, they wonder if this means the end to some of their frustrations.

Years in the making coming to fruition as the nearly two decade-long project was finally completed. In fact, former Congressman Bill Thomas — the man who first envisioned connecting two major freeways in Bakersfield —came to announce the project’s end.

“So it is the beginning of the end. TRIP is coming to a close,” Thomas said.

TRIP meaning the Thomas Roads Improvement Project, a $609 million effort to construct a new alignment that provides route continuity for Highway 58 through the City of Bakersfield, from Cottonwood Road to Interstate 5.

The Centennial Corridor project was started in 2006 and creates a new avenue for commerce,” Thomas said. “Centennial Corridor will allow delivery trucks and other long-distance shipping vehicles to travel through the area much easier and more quickly, avoiding the need to use local roadways.”

But progress for some meant pain for others. Neighbors like Ruth Zoniga.

We have raised so many concerns,” she said, shuffling the years of correspondence she’d received from the City.

At least, up until the pandemic.

When we first spoke to Zoniga in December, she along with her neighbors shared their frustrations over the ongoing construction, which brought vacant lots that were filled with unsecured construction equipment, graffiti, and homeless encampments lighting fires just feet from their homes.

“Because of the way things turned out, this used to be a beautiful Cul-de-Sac lined with trees,” she said. “Now, all the transients and construction, it has been a total, total nightmare.”

Following our last report, Zoniga said she began noticing a change in response times from law enforcement and officials, and she’s grateful to see improvement.

City Public Works Director Greg Strakaluse said they’re working to address the concerns of these neighborhoods.

“We’re going to try to minimize any impacts from this project moving forward to the community,” he said.

Zoniga said while she’s seen areas of improvement, the works not over.

“Really appreciate the responsiveness, my concern is just making this areas nicer for the children,” she said.

Strakaluse working to construct permanent lines of communication with community members moving forward.

“I believe we’ve developed better relationships with individuals, we know some of them by name now,” he said. “It’s not until you get into construction that you begin to develop relationships with folks who are directly effected.”

Zoniga hoping this time progress will mean a something different for their neighborhood.

“It’s a boom town, it’s growing,” she said. “I’m all for beautifying this neighborhood and making it safer.”

As for as the Centennial Corridor, now that the ribbon has been cut, on Saturday the city will be hosting hundreds of bicyclists for ride to ring in this accomplishment. The highway will be open to the public a few days following that.


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