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California Streets - Interstate 40 Extension and Bakersfield Freeway Network

The following are issues relating to conversion of the Highway 58 corridor into Interstate 40.

Interstate 40 Extension:

Interstate 40: Introduction

One of the most persistent and feasible of all California interstate rumors is the extension of Interstate 40 westward along the CA 58 corridor, from its existing terminus at I-15 in Barstow to CA 99 at Bakersfield. Currently, this section of CA 58 is a major trucking route across the high desert and Tehachapi Mountains, connecting the southern San Joaquin Valley with Nevada and Arizona. It was previously submitted for upgrade to interstate status in 1956 and 1968 but rejected by AASHTO.

Highway 58 from Barstow to Mojave

The current Highway 58 corridor is the best alignment for a I-40 extension, as it follows the same basic horizontal direction as the existing I-40 route, and is at freeway grade for the majority of its route between I-15 and CA 99. Those segments that are not currently at freeway grade are planned to be upgraded within the decade, including the Mojave Bypass around the city of Mojave, which began construction in January 2001. Also, planned bypasses of Hinkley and Kramer are proposed to be four-lane expressways, which could be upgraded to freeway status relatively easily. Such a route would be especially used by semis and other truck transport in the winter, when snow closes down I-80 and US 50. The only major problem is that some portions of the existing CA 58 freeway might not be up to interstate standards, which would be an added expense.


Interstate 40 Routing

Continuing westward, I would extend I-40 along the CA 58 corridor all the way out to CA 99. This connects I-40 with the backbone of the Central Valley transportation network. The extension of I-40 also creates some interesting issues with relation to the regional street network of the greater Bakersfield area.

Interstates I-240 and I-440 - The Beltway There is currently a great debate going on in and around Bakersfield regarding the future freeway and expressway network in the area over the next 20 years. The City of Bakersfield, Kern County, Kern Council of Governments, and Caltrans have begun a campaign called the Bakersfield Systems Study, in order to help define the future street network. The three agencies and the public came up with 20 different options that comprise freeway and expressway improvements that could be implemented in the area. One of the concepts out of these options is that of a beltway around the city. In terms of a regional network, this is probably the best way to serve outlying areas, such as eastern Bakersfield and the cities of Taft, Arvin, and Lamont.

My Proposed Bakersfield Freway NetworkThe Bakersfield Systems Study proposes a southern beltway that completely bypasses Lamont and a northern bypass along Seventh Standard Road, with both segments connecting with I-5. Karl Davidson, a resident of the Bakersfield area and author of a website hosting his own proposals for the region, proposes a true beltway for the Bakersfield metro area, with only a spur off the northwestern corner of the beltway connecting with I-5. I propose a partial hybrid of the two proposals, as shown in the graphic to the right. My southern beltway, what I'm calling I-240, would start at the I-5/CA 119 interchange and continue east along CA 119 to near Buena Vista Road. I-240 would then shift to run parallel with Hosking Road across CA 99 and out to CA 184 in Lamont. After passing CA 184, the southern beltway would turn north parallel to and just east of Vineland Road, and would continue northward past CA 58/I-40 and become the northern beltway, I-440. Near Kern Canyon Road, the northern beltway would turn northwest, crossing CA 178 and continuing northwest, then north northwest parallel to CA 99 out to the CA 65/Merced Avenue intersection. I-440 would then continue east to CA 99 parallel to and just north of Dressler Avenue (betwen Kimberlina Road and Dressler Avenue).

I feel this beltway plan is the best option for a number of reasons. The southern beltway, I-240, serves as a southern bypass of the Bakersfield area, and provides improved access to Taft, Greenfield, Lamont, and Arvin. The northern bypass improves access to eastern and northern Bakersfield, as well as provides a northern bypass to Bakersfield, which when combined with CA 46, forms a more direct link from I-15 to I-5 and US 101.


Other Regional Improvements

I have four other proposals to complete the regional network in Bakersfield. First, I support the Bakersfield Systems Study proposal of a north-south freeway between CA 99 and I-5. My proposal would parallel Renfro Road immediately to the west. The southern segment would connect with I-5. The northern segment would turn northeast at Seventh Standard Road, cross CA 99, and connect with the existing CA 65 near the CA 65/Merced Avenue intersection. This is why I would sign the north-south freeway, also known as the western bypass, as CA 65.

The most contentious of all the freeway proposals in the Bakersfield area is the Kern River Freeway, which would parallel the Stockdale Highway corridor and the Kern River from CA 99 to I-5. Proposed for years, the project would take traffic off the overburdened Rosedale Highway corridor in northwestern Bakersfield. The freeway first appeared in planning documents in 1980. Subsequent studies in the 1980's and 1990's reviewed the proposal and adopted a proposed routing from near CA 99 out to Stockdale Highway. Currently, direct ramps connecting the new freeway and the existing CA 58 freeway are also planned, and would parallel CA 99 between the two freeways. Many residents are against the plan, concerned over the impacts on a water recharge area the freeway would cross and the impacts on Kern River itself.

A Project Study Report (PSR) is currently ongoing for the project, and some money for the project has been secured from the federal government, Caltrans, and Kern County. The route has not been officially adopted by Caltrans. The freeway is part of some of the Bakersfield Systems Study alternatives.

As for how the Kern River Freeway would connect with CA 99, there is no official plan as of yet. The Bakersfield Systems Study proposes either a connection at the CA 99/CA 58/CA 178/Rosedale interchange or at Truxton Avenue. The City of Bakersfield prefers the later, which they promote at the Public Works Department web site. The city would have the Kern River Freeway cross the Kern River and intersect CA 99 just south of the Truxton undercrossing, then connect with Truxton at grade, just west of Oak Street. The two freeways would have a partial interchange, providing access only between the freeways, and not from CA 99 to Truxton Avenue.

As I propose it, this freeway would extend from CA 99, at the Truxton Avenue undercrossing (as proposed by the City of Bakersfield), southwestward between the Rosedale Highway (CA 58) and Stockdale Highway corridors. West of Renfro Road, the freeway would cross Stockdale Highway and continue along the Stockdale Highway corridor westward to I-5. The plan is contraversial because of the alignment near CA 99, where the freeway would cross a water recharge site and be right alongside the Kern River. However, the freeway would be invaluable for taking traffic off of the highly congested Rosedale Highway and Stockdale Highway corridors. The northwest quadrant of Bakersfield is the fastest-growing region of the city, and most of those residents are forced to use Rosedale Highway. Many of them could use the Kern River Freeway, which I would designate at CA 58, as their primary commute route. I would have the Kern River Freeway connect with CA 99 at Truxton Avenue with a full interchange, and then become CA 178. As CA 178, the freeway would turn northeast and eventually run parallel and immediately south of 24th Street near Alder Street. The City of Bakersfield also proposes converting the 23rd and 24th street corridor into a cut-and-cover tunnel. I propose that the CA 178 freeway be undergrounded in this manner, from Bay Street to M Street, and then resurface at M Street to connect up with the exisitng CA 178 at CA 204/Golden State Avenue. This would provide a cross-city freeway from I-5 out to the Kern River Canyon.

Side note: The entire Kern River Freeway (CA 58)-CA 178 freeway segement from I-5 to I-440 (northeast beltway) could also be classified as I-340. However, I suspect CA 178 may not meet interstate standards, and upgrading it may not be worth the expense just to change the route number designation.

Finally, my last freeway would be an extension of the northern beltway out to I-5 and, eventually, out to US 101. I would extend I-40 north along CA 99 from the CA 99/CA 58 interchange out to the CA 99/I-440 interchange. The northern beltway would continue westward as I-40 along the Dressler Avenue corridor past CA 43 for a mile or so, then head northwest to CA 46. The freeway would then continue parallel to CA 46 out to I-5, and in the interim would rejoin CA 46. This freeway would allow a continuous freeway from CA 46/I-5 all the way out to I-15 in Barstow, which would be a major improvement for cross-state and cross-country transportation by truck. Also, Shafter and Wasco would have quicker and more direct access to the regional freeway network, making regional travel faster and easier for commuters and business, which could be a major boon for the economies of both cities.

My other proposal for the area would be a network of expressways throughout the area. I propose that the following roadways be upgraded to four- and six- lane expressways:

These expressways will complement the freeway network nicely by adding high-capacity roadways that don't require as much right-of-way as freeways, and therefore act as a second tier of a regional network.

UPDATE: Since I originally proposed this plan, some decisions have been made on these issues. First, in late July, 2001, the Kern County Board of Supervisors officially endorced Option 15, which would create a new freeway along the CA 204 corridor, build the Kern River Freeway (ahem, &Parkway&) from the Renfro Road/Stockdale Highway intersection to CA 178 along the Kern River and just south of Truxton Avenue, and a new freeway (most likely the new alignment for CA 58) along the 7th Standard Road corridor between CA 99 and Interstate 5. Final adoption of the 7th Standard freeway hinges on its incorporation into the General Plans of the Cities of Bakersfield and Shafter. Part of the Southern Beltway has also been approved by the City of Bakersfield, which adopted a partial alignment along the Engle Road corridor in 2001.

Connection to US 101

In order to complete the I-40 freeway network, I would extend I-40 westward from the CA 99/I-40/I-440 interchange out to I-5 along the Highway 46 corridor. This would allow for easy truck transport between the Central Valley and the costal valleys, such as the agricultural-rich Salinas Valley. Plus, the existing Highway 46 route is relatively straight, not a windy, twisty road, (like most of the existing highways across the coastal mountains between the Bay Area and Los Angeles), making it easier and less expensive to construct.

Perhaps the best alignment for I-40 is the existing Highway 46. Caltrans is working on plans to widen the existing Highway 46 from a two-lane highway to a limited-access, four-lane expressway between Airport Road (on the outskirts of Paso Robles) and Cholame, with a freeway-grade interchange at the Highway 41/Highway 46 junction in Cholame. Such an expressway would be relatively easy to upgrade to freeway status. Caltrans anticipates contruction of the expressway upgrade to start in 2004.

As for the segment through Paso Robles, the existing CA 46 alignment from Airport Road to US 101 is already a divided expressway, which would be easy to convert to freeway status. The connection with US 101 would also be relatively easy. There is an existing diamond interchange at the US 101/CA 46/24th Street junction. US 101 in this section is bordered by the Salinas River to the east, and the California Mid-State Fair fairgrounds and various businesses to the west. Therefore, there's no room on the western side for direct ramps from US 101 to CA 46/I-40, but there is some buffer between the river and the freeway. So I propose realigning US 101 slightly to the east, and reconstructing the northbound offramp and onramp. This would provide enough room for direct, "fly-over" ramps from southbound US 101 to eastbound CA 46/I-40 and from westbound CA 46/I-40 to southbound US 101. The existing diamond interchange and direct connection from CA 46 onto 24th Street will be maintained, in order to maintain current access to and from US 101, CA 46, and 24th Street. In short, my proposal will still allow the same accessibility to all directions as exists now, but will add direct freeway-to-freeway connections to improve traffic flow between the freeways.

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E-mail Jeff Waller (mapman@got.net)