After the board of supervisors allotted $1.59 million for park improvements to the 2019-20 county budget on Aug. 27, the county also applied for a $1.4 million Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant for improvements to Lytle Avenue, an unpaved road in Delano.
If the county receives the CMAQ grant, Lytle Avenue would be able to receive the necessary funding for improvements to make it easier for people to travel on. Additions to the street could include lights, a paved road, sidewalks and crosswalks for pedestrians.
“This grant application is a step towards a long-needed improvement for those living along Lytle Avenue,” the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment’s (CRPE) press release said.
The CMAQ grant is a Federal Highway Administration funding program that provides a flexible funding source to state and local governments for transportation projects and programs to help meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act.
For decades residents living on Lytle Avenue have endured traveling through their street unsafely, residents say. Currently, Lytle Avenue is unpaved, has no sidewalks, and no light posts on the street.
Delao resident Norma Ruiz wrote in a Kern Sol News article about her experience living in Lytle Avenue. She noted the many challenges she and other residents faced — challenges like traveling on a street susceptible to flooding and a street no accessible to school buses, resulting in kids walking long distances to the nearest bus stop.
“Our street is flooded every time it rains,” Lytle Avenue resident Esthela Perez said in a press release from the CRPE. “The street is not paved and our kids sometimes miss school. Families struggle to get out of their homes.”
She continued: “I’m grateful that the Supervisors understand the importance of paving our streets to protect our health and support students by minimizing lost days of school.”
Many community members expressed their thanks and gratitude to the supervisors at the budget hearing, and many expressed their hopes that the grant will be approved.
“In order to improve safety and health in Kern County, residents have been working with Kern organizations, including CRPE and members of Building Healthy Communities, to submit an equity-based budget proposal for the fiscal budget 2019-20,” CRPE Organizer Gustavo Aguirre said. “Our expectation has been that the Supervisors want to honor the communities’ needs and recommendations, and that’s what we fought for.”