BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — If you’ve driven Highway 99 recently you probably noticed traffic is flowing a bit more freely. That’s because after years of ongoing construction the Bakersfield 99 rehab project is finally nearing completion.
Highway 99 has been fully reopened in both directions from Oildale to east Bakersfield and while there’s still some small work to be done it should no longer affect drivers’ daily commute.
“The project started in early 2020. The scope of the project, the meat of that project was designed to rehabilitate the pavement between the Beardsley Canal and the Brundage Lane overcrossing,” says Christian Lukens, information officer with Caltrans District 6.
While the project was set to end in 2021 there were a few setbacks that pushed back construction.
“More in year one kind of things. We had some items where we had an individual who drove the wrong way through a ramp and tore up some of the pre-paving work that had been done there and set that back a couple of weeks," explained Lukens. "We had some scenarios where some of the materials were stolen off of the job site, unfortunately, but really the big delay was 2020, at the onset of the pandemic.”
The goal of the $81 million project was to prevent additional wear and tear on vehicles as they drive along the freeway.
“We were getting a combination of maintenance tickets that were requesting the pothole fixes and it was something that our staff was seeing as well and they needed to have a project to really come in and rehabilitate the whole area, rather than doing the patchwork maintenance fixes.”
But now things have finally cleared up making the commute more bearable.
“The major portion of the project has been done, those northbound, southbound corridors are completed. Drivers may have already seen the cave rail, the bypass lane, that’s all gone off of 99, and all we have left now are some kind of minor punch list items, a lot of striping, guardrails, some ramp work.”
Lukens adds that adjusting the timeline was not only difficult for their construction crews but also local residents.
“Certainly not easy for the community to get out there and see the bypass lanes still in effect months after the project was supposed to be completed. So we appreciate the patience and understanding from a lot of the residents that have reached out regarding this project.”
Lukens says the small work that still needs to be done will mainly take place overnight so drivers in the daytime will not be affected.