Pro Con Construction causes concern

Bernie Rejon

Robert Mullen, Myrissa Johns, Editors

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24thStreetOnline- BARPro
Traffic congestion makes the widening a must do

I am all for the widening of 24th Street because I believe that it needs to be done, regardless of what opponents might say.
One of the primary reasons is the massive traffic problems. The street was not designed to handle the volume of cars that drive through that road every day either into or out of downtown, especially heading east from the 99, and gosh if driving that route doesn’t just show you how much that’s true.
A single accident can shut down that entire road and cause massive congestion on Oak Street, several of the lettered downtown streets, and the rest of Rosedale Highway too. But usually there aren’t any accidents and still it can gridlock easily as buses, trailered trucks, and old people take their sweet time going 10-20 miles per hour under the speed limit.
This needs to be alleviated, especially for students and working folks who need to be able to move through downtown at more than just a snail’s pace.
Congestion can also get frustratingly bad where the street splits. I’ve been infuriated when the line of cars before me finally starts moving, and I can’t even make it past the light because of how much traffic needs to actually clear ahead of me.
Of course there are issues with this project. There always are with every project, in every city, in every time.
Critics may say it’s unfair to force people to leave their homes, or that too much needs to be done and it isn’t financially sound, but what is the price of progress?
Did the city planners really ever believe that more than a third of a million people would live here? Were the streets designed to accommodate the level of transportation required to commute tens of thousands of folks to work or school through the downtown area? Of course not!
Right now there are only three easy ways to traverse downtown on the east-west axis. You can sit through the unbearable lights on Truxtun Avenue, deal with inconvenience of the Golden State Highway, or sit through the traffic of the most conveniently placed road, which rapidly became laughable as the main artery of travel.
Bakersfield continues to grow, and we’ve not even adjusted to the numbers of citizens from our last big growth spurt.
The Westside Parkway was one small step to modernizing our city, but even that is a drop in the bucket and of limited use since it doesn’t directly connect to the 99. A widening of 24th Street would further help the progress of the city by speeding up traffic times and ensuring an ease of travel.
If we don’t expand and modernize here, we will allow ourselves to always be constrained by old, outdated, and sometimes even counter-productive city layouts. Does the past dictate to us what we should build and how we should travel? I don’t think it should, especially since the city has shown it isn’t willing to invest in better public transportation services.
If there is no other alternative for the average commuter besides a personal auto, then the roads they travel on should be improved and updated so that getting from point A to point B doesn’t take all day and a migraine headache.

Con

Project is an unnecessary waste of the city’s money

While sitting in construction-induced traffic, I wondered about what exactly it is that makes people feel so entitled and selfish that they would choose tearing down family homes and ruining a historic area rather than having to sit in traffic for 15 minutes, especially when there are at least three other ways to get places.
I see so many people that are so excited for this 24th Street widening project only because they don’t like the traffic congestion. I’m aware that we live in a world of instant gratification, but I hope you realize that wanting a wider street doesn’t magically make less traffic.
24th Street was built for an average of 44,000 vehicles per day, but today nearly 60,000 vehicles drive this route. There needs to be a lane per every 10,000 cars, and city officials have estimated that traffic is increasing by 10,000 vehicles each year, making this project inevitable.
OK, so let me get this straight. By the end of the two-year construction period, there will be 20,000 more vehicles driving 24th Street each day, meaning the street would once again be experiencing an excess amount of traffic congestion. I guess at that point, we might just need to tear down some more homes and make two more lanes.
I’m completely lost on the fact that the city is so set on making this “gateway to downtown” that they have failed to listen to the opinions of the residents of this city, and even to that of one of their own council members.
Councilman Terry Maxwell was the only vote of opposition against this project, to which he offered alternatives, only to be criticized by councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan. In turn, Sullivan insulted everyone with a differing opinion by questioning if Maxwell really thought that he stood to gain the support of three other council members, which would have made it enough to sway the vote.
To me, that means the opposition never stood a chance – that the vote was decided before it even started. That sounds fair enough, right?
How can we – as residents of the city of Bakersfield – feel like we are being represented fairly and respectfully, when an elected official can’t even treat her own colleague with fairness and respect?
Maxwell should be commended for his efforts and due diligence. He was so dedicated to the members of his ward that he put in copious amounts of work and research to determine the consequences of this project. I wish I could say that this ethical and moral character was similar to that of the other members representing us.
Two years, that is the amount of time projected to complete this project; two years of construction traffic; two years of dust being stirred up causing health risks for everyone in the area; two years of residents being disturbed by construction noise.
35 years, that is the amount of time the city will spend making payments on the loan to pay off this construction. College students: it is our generation that will be picking up the $240-million tab for these projects.
Being a struggling student myself, those numbers are completely astounding to me, especially when there are alternatives that could be easier, less-expensive options, yet the city is unwilling to try.

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