Today, Kern County Public Works, elected officials, and community members gathered at Heritage Park for a ribbon-cutting celebrating the completion of the Virginia Street Pedestrian Path Project.
“The spirit of unity is represented in this absolutely critical investment into the built environment of East Bakersfield,” said Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez, District 5.
Virginia Street is a key corridor between Williams Elementary School and Heritage Park. The project installed approximately 1.5 miles of both sidewalks and bike lanes along this corridor.
The Virginia Street Pedestrian Path Project was proposed due to the community’s concerns about pedestrian infrastructure and safety in the area. The goal of the pedestrian path project was to provide safe connecting paths to the nearby school, park, markets, and public transit locations.
“I want to thank the community for their patience because it was in 2018 that I first started community outreach out here and I wanted to hear their story, what they felt was needed in this area,” stated Kern County Public Works Manager Yolanda Alcantar. “When I started investigating which areas needed improvement in this area, I found that there had been over 69 accidents — with seven fatalities — within one mile of Williams Elementary School and I thought that’s just unacceptable.”
Alcantar went on to reveal that a major problem is that there are limited grant funds for sidewalks, nothing that until Kern County Public Works applied for a grant from Caltrans’ Active Transportation Program (ATP), the county could only apply for grants for $300,000-$400,000 at a time.
After being awarded the ATP grant for $2.1 million, the path construction phase began in November 2021 and was completed in Summer 2022. In total, the project cost approximately $2,455,000 with Kern County Public Works contributing $448,086.
“This grant fund through Caltrans’ was the first opportunity for us to go big and try to make an impactful difference with a lot of grant funds at one time,” Alcantar said.
The path will ensure that students from Williams Elementary will be able to walk safely to the park.
Alcantar continued by saying: “So the goal, of course, is to promote active lifestyles, increase walking and biking, increase public health, reduce vehicle trips, and all of this improves our air quality so it’s important and sidewalk projects make a difference.”
Kern County Public Health was a major partner in this project in working with the community to facilitate clean-ups at Heritage Park. Additional partners include Kern County Parks & Recreation, Bakersfield City School District, City of Bakersfield, Caltrans, Williams Elementary School, Kern Council of Governments, Bike Bakersfield, and local resident Jeanette M. Calvillo.
For more information, visit the Kern County Public Works website.