New sidewalks in Lamont bring safety to kids and drivers

Work is underway on sidewalks in Lamont, Calif., Monday, June 11, 2018. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

LAMONT, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Something as commonplace as a sidewalk is now the center of attention for parents in Lamont.

It's not just potholes drivers are careful to avoid as they cruise down Panama Road in Lamont. They also have to dodge children in the street.

Many roads in Lamont did not have sidewalks, or if they did, they were so overcome by dirt and weeds that children were prone to falling, or ending up caked in dirt and mud.

"A lot of times, they get dirty and get to school, and the school would send them home," said Yolanda Alcantar, manager for Kern County Public Works. "You're limited in choices there. It's either get muddy, get wet, or put yourself in danger."

After 15 pedestrian collisions -- one deadly -- were reported to the California Office of Traffic Safety between 2010 and 2015, Lamont residents took action to find an avenue for change.

They raised their concerns to Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, who partnered with Public Works to fund new sidewalks. The Lamont Pedestrian Improvement Project, with funding from Caltrans, took more than three years to get off the ground. This month, construction on Phase I began.

"I'm happy right now, because the streets look way different," said Gustavo Aguirre, director of organizing for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment.

Just a few days ago, they were piles of dirt, Aguirre said. Now, the neighborhood looks transformed. By October, 4 miles of roadwork will be complete.

This project is more comprehensive, and it's already seeing a groundswell of relief.

"I'm pretty sure the parents are going to be a little more relaxed, because they know their kids are safer," Aguirre said.

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