Westside Parkway now open

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The east-west running Westside Parkway is now open. Officials announced the opening shortly before 12:30 p.m. Friday.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held during the morning, but the public was kept off the roadway until crews had time to clear blockades from ramps.

Westside Parkway is Bakersfield's first new freeway in nearly 40 years. The Thomas Roads Improvement Program has been building it for nearly four years, and the $240 million project was three decades in the planning.

"Back then, city planners and county planners thought about the need. They had a need for a new freeway on the west side of town. If you see the map of Bakersfield, you have (Highway) 99 going right through the middle of Bakersfield. And we have State Route 58 and 178 going to the east side of Bakersfield. On the west side of town, there's nothing. There's no freeways," city engineer Luis Topete said Friday morning prior to the opening.

Raw video: Officials cut the ribbon on the Westside Parkway

The roadway extends 5 miles, from Truxtun Avenue in the east to Allen Road in the west. Interchanges are located at Mohawk Street, Coffee Road, Calloway Drive and Allen Road.

Project officials hope the new stretch of freeway will help to alleviate traffic congestion in some areas.

"I think we're going to see a lot of relief on traffic, especially on Rosedale Highway, we know that's one of the busiest roads in town. Stockdale Highway is another very busy road," said Topete.

A final phase of the project is expected to be completed and open to traffic by fall 2014.