Bakersfield leader wants change to busy Truxtun intersection

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Saying he drives the busy intersection himself, Bakersfield City Councilman Terry Maxwell wants to see safety improvements to Truxtun Avenue and Westwind Drive, just west of Oak Street.

Maxwell just got a report from city engineers. But, he has some ideas of his own for improvements, and big worries.

"My concern is, if traffic safety or the safety of our citizens is important, we really need to address this before somebody gets killed there," Maxwell told Eyewitness News on Tuesday.

Drivers who work near the intersection share his concern.

"It's a very dangerous intersection," Fred Misono said.

He worries about traffic zipping west on Truxtun.

"People coming from Oak are coming fast, (Truxtun) is lower, it's on a corner, you can't really see them," he said.

Maxwell is also worried about the lack of visibility and the speed of the traffic.

"You don't see it for very long before it's right on top of you, so it's hard to judge how fast it's coming at you," he said.

Chris Myers-Mainland works in a building at Truxtun and Westwind, and she braves the intersection every day.

"I think it's a dangerous situation, and accidents are going to just keep happening," she said.

When Maxwell asked for a response on potential improvements, the Public Works Department responded with a memo. It said there were two reported accidents at the intersection in 2011, one in 2012, and four collisions near it in 2013. The city memo said three of the ones last year were before the Westside Parkway opened.

But, that new freeway starts off Truxtun, just a bit past Westwind, and Maxwell said that's made things worse.

He said traffic has increased 40 percent since the Parkway opened. Some commuters also think the Parkway has made for more traffic in that stretch of Truxtun.

The staff memo to Maxwell said there are proposals underway to widen Truxtun from Oak Street to just west of Highway 99 "which will add a third lane in each direction." It said city staffers are working with Caltrans for how to widen Truxtun where Hwy. 99 goes over it.

Maxwell has doubts about that plan, and so do some drivers

"I don't know if a third lane is going to help, there's so much traffic, it's hard to get in and out," Misono said.

According to the city memo, engineers have adjusted the signal light at Oak Street, hoping to provide "gaps" in the traffic flow on Truxtun that will allow for turns on Westwind.

Drivers said they don't see improvement.

The memo also looked at whether a traffic signal could be added at Westwind and Truxtun. Based on the amount of traffic, the spot "meets warrants" for a light, but there are too many safety concerns to do it. For one thing, a new light would be only 1,100 feet from the signal at Oak. Drivers agree, that's a problem.

"I think it'll just jam up traffic even more," Myers-Mainland observed. Maxwell agreed.

He thinks a cul-de-sac on Westwind is a solution, but the city report shot down that idea.

"Unfortunately this is not a viable option due to the close proximity of the buildings on both the east and west sides of the street," the memo reads. "The additional right-of-way required for the cul-de-sac would extend into the existing buildings on both sides of the street requiring modifications to the buildings."

But, Maxwell said don't put the cul-de-sac at the very end of Westwind.

"What you do is, you cul-de-sac it where you've got three or four driveways that come together he said. The councilman figures that would be about 100 feet from where Westwind currently meets Truxtun, and that end of the existing street could then be used for additional parking.

Sitting in one of those driveways in his pickup, Misono has doubts about Maxwell's idea.

"Safety-wise that may work, it just may not work politically," he said. "It probably won't be popular, because too many people on off hours use (Westwind) a lot."

Misono said the problem is during peak commute hours, but he does think it might really help to stop allowing left turns from Truxtun onto Westwind.

In the city's memo, the staff said they also looked at putting in a westbound "acceleration lane" on Truxtun from Westwind, but said there isn't enough room for that near the restaurant located on the northwest corner.

Public Works said their staff continues to check operations of the signals and amount of traffic on Truxtun in this area as use of the Westside Parkway continues to increase.

Maxwell said adding that freeway made the situation go from bad to worse. He wants to discuss his idea of the set-back cul-de-sac on Westwind, simply closing off the troublesome intersection.

"For safety and traffic flow, the best thing is to eliminate the process by which people can come up Westwind and make a right turn on Truxtun," Maxwell said.

He wants to hear what city engineers think about his idea, and hopes to meet with them soon.