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New lane diversion frustrating motorists on Highway 99

Posted at 11:37 PM, Jul 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-23 02:54:24-04

If you drove northbound on Highway 99 through Bakersfield on Monday you may have noticed something different.

Caltrans is diverting the fast lane of traffic on part of the freeway to its own lane over the center median between California Avenue and Olive Drive. This is frustrating some commuters because the diverted lane does not have access to off-ramps.

Bakersfield resident Salvador Curiel was on his way to meet with a friend just off Rosedale Highway on Monday, but ended up getting caught in the diversion.

“There was no warning, it was just a surprise I had this morning and I think it’s really unfair," he said.

The diversion, or "lane switch" as Caltrans calls it, is part of a construction project that will completely resurface and rehabilitate Highway 99. The northbound traffic switch is expected to be in place until Summer 2020, at which point a similar construction project will start, affecting southbound lanes.

Caltrans says a massive overhaul like this always makes for a big challenge.

“Devising a plan that would allow the construction to happen while still being as minimal a nuisance, if you will, on people that are just trying to get to where they're going on a daily basis," said Christain Lukens, a spokesperson for the agency.

Commuters looking to get off the freeway can stay in the two right lanes without issue. But still, seeing the new construction isn't making some happy.

“It was pretty slow on the whole detour, where it splits, it was actually pretty slow the whole way over. Not going faster than 35 miles per hour," Curiel said.

Caltrans said they understand driver's frustrations, but hope once the construction is done, people will appreciate it.

“It’s understandable. I think a lot of people, when you run in to construction, you're going to have that initial reaction. The hope that we have is that at the end of the project you’ll see what all of this is for," Lukens said.