Privacy fences will help shield neighbors during Centennial Corridor construction

Privacy fences will go up along the route of the Centennial Corridor in Bakersfield, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo/Carol Ferguson)

Maybe some of the neighbors near the Centennial Corridor project would say they were green with envy when they saw green fencing next to the widening project on 24th Street.

Now, there's word that those so-called privacy fences will also be used for the Centennial project to shield homes next to construction of that big project.

"I was delighted, because I think that's a great idea," Catherine Pieroni told Eyewitness News on Monday.

She heard over the weekend that her area would also get the 8-foot tall cloth screens.

"I saw that on 24th Street, and it looked really good," she said.

The Centennial project is getting closer to construction. It already cuts a wide path through central Bakersfield where homes, apartments and businesses have been torn down to make way. The project will link the dead-end of Highway 58 to the Westside Parkway.

The Centennial Corridor has been a long time in planning and design. So far, 201 buildings have been demolished in its path, according to Thomas Road Improvement Program spokeswoman Janet Wheeler.

TRIP held three community meetings for the remaining neighbors at the beginning of the year, and Project Manager Luis Topete said that's when they heard concerns about privacy during construction.

"It is something new, it hadn't been proposed," Topete said. "It's one of those things that I guess, as designers go through the project and they start designing the roadways, the bridges -- it's the little things that get forgotten."

Then at about the same time, they got a positive response to the privacy fences along the north side of the 24th Street project.

"After they installed the fences on 24th Street, we felt like -- well, that's working very well over there," Topete said. "Let's just do the same thing here."

He said the privacy fences along the Corridor route could start going up within a couple weeks.

Marc Gamboa's home also sits right next to the route, and he's glad to hear about the green fences.

"If it's going to give us a little more privacy, it will help," he said. "We're getting a little more foot traffic through here." He had also just spotted the green fencing on 24th and wondered if his area would get the same.

Pieroni hopes the screening will help prevent crime. She said that shot up, when houses were left vacant to make way for demolition. Her long-time home ends up right at a cul-de-sac created for the new freeway, and she also thinks the eventual, permanent freeway barrier walls will help prevent crime.

"Crime has been escalating in this area," she said, "it's really bad."

Topete said some of the walls can go up in certain areas by late summer or early fall.

But before that, the privacy fences will go in. Topete said that will add about $120,000 to the cost of the project. But adds that's not a major expense, the total cost for the Centennial Corridor is about $300 million.

TRIP officials say there will be a total of about one-and-a-half miles of the privacy fencing. It'll go up in various areas that are "exposed," according to Topete. Some stretches are planned between California Avenue and Stockdale Highway, and some more south of Stockdale Highway.

Gamboa knows many of his neighbors opposed the project, but he's resigned to the new freeway going in, and just wants it done as soon as possible.

"There's no use fighting," Gamboa said. "It's going on, it's going to go through. I think it'll be beneficial, since we're in such a good area here in Bakersfield, with being central to everything."

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