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Kern County Public Works planning improvements to Norris Road in Oildale

Posted at 6:41 PM, Jan 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-30 21:39:06-05
  • Video shows areas along Norris Road in Oildale, railroad tracks, crosswalks, and a community meeting addressing safety.
  • Kern County Public Works is using nearly $10 million to improve traffic and pedestrian safety on Norris Road in Oildale.
  • While it sounds like a lot of money, some residents say this is barely scratching the surface of a much bigger ongoing problem.

Kern County Public Works is using nearly $10 million to improve traffic and pedestrian safety on Norris Road in Oildale.

While it sounds like a lot of money, some residents say this is barely scratching the surface of a much bigger ongoing problem.

"I knew a guy in high school who killed a cyclist in his car, and he was wrecked," said James Tiede, an oildale resident who often drives and rides his bike along Norris. "So street safety is the responsibility of every driver, but also the people who are in control of the way streets are designed."

Teide said he finds the road problematic and he'd like to see officials tackle its design speed — a tool besides the speed limit which can urge drivers to be more cautious.

"I see a road that tells me to go fast, there's nothing that encourages me to go slower," Teide said.

It's these observations that moved him to attend a community meeting hosted by Public Works looking for feedback on planned upgrades.

During the meeting, Public Works Manager Yolanda Alcanta said they found that Oildale and east Bakersfield have the highest rate of collisions of pedestrian and bicyclists and deaths in the county. She said between 2011 to 2021, Norris Road saw over 240 reported traffic collisions, 40 bicycle and pedestrian-involved collisions, and four deaths.

That's why the new project, costing $9.79 million and funded through the Caltrans Active Transportation Program, will span from Airport Drive to North Chester Avenue, an area which encompasses seven schools, parks, and three community centers.

The current plan includes adding new ADA-accessible curb ramps, flashing signs and crosswalks along two railroad crossings at California Street and Sequoia Drive.

"We're dealing with a lot of legacy issues, when this road was built the development standards weren't the same so now as the population grows we're seeing those issues arise," said 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Flores.

Bakersfield Neighborhood News Reporter Veronica Morley talks with Supervisor Jeff Flores about Norris Road in Oildale.
Bakersfield Neighborhood News Reporter Veronica Morley talks with Supervisor Jeff Flores about Norris Road in Oildale.

Flores also attended the meeting to hear residents' concerns, but we took it a step further, visiting one of the railroad crossings that was deemed unsafe. Flores said he sees the dangers of the railroad crossings and the busy lanes. He believes adding an additional sidewalk would help and hopes the county and railroad can come to an agreement.

According to public works, the county has 60 feet of right-of-way on Norris, but there's not enough room due to the railroad right-of-way to add sidewalks to the south side of the road. While the county is still in talks with the railroad about the area, Flores believes adding an additional sidewalk would help and hopes the county and railroad can come to an agreement.

"Pedestrians deserve a sidewalk," Flores said. "If you give us the right of way, we will do the sidewalk. We're just asking for a couple of feet."

Residents at the meeting were mostly in favor of these improvements, but they felt even more still needs to come.

"Honestly the easiest way is to eliminate the cross and the left turns," said one resident.

"Are you guys in favor of closing the vehicle traffic in here," Public Works asked. They were met with a mixed response.

Teide said he believes their biggest issue is that there’s not enough within the road to compel drivers to slow down and be more cautious.

Construction for the already planned and funded upgrades is anticipated for 2026-27. You can still give your feedback on the project to public works here.


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