Caltrans reverses decision to close Stockdale Highway off-ramp

·2 min read

Aug. 11—Some say changing the mind of a government agency as big as Caltrans is like trying to turn around an aircraft carrier in mid-ocean.

It's possible, but it's not done lightly.

And yet, on Thursday, it happened.

According to two sources close to the discussion, Caltrans has agreed to delay the impending and permanent closure of the Stockdale Highway off-ramp off southbound Highway 99.

According to sources, just hours after a story in The Californian reported Wednesday night and Thursday morning on the outrage Bakersfield motorists expressed in response to the plan, at least two members of the Bakersfield City Council, individuals in the Bakersfield city manager's office and several others were on the phone with Caltrans and one another trying to work out a solution.

"It makes a lot of sense to keep it open," Bakersfield City Councilman Andrae Gonzales said Thursday afternoon.

"This was a good decision by Caltrans," he said.

City Councilman Bob Smith was also working behind the scenes to find a solution.

Ahron Hakimi, executive director of Kern Council of Governments, which works extensively in the arena of transportation planning, said the city of Bakersfield, the Thomas Roads Improvement Program and Caltrans should be congratulated for the cooperation shown in making this happen just hours before the planned 8 p.m. shut down of the freeway exit.

"I applaud Caltrans and Bakersfield for working to find a solution that will allow the ramp to remain in operation until it needs to be physically removed in order to accommodate a new freeway-to-freeway connector," Hakimi said.

At first, when the two-paragraph news release hit the streets Tuesday announcing the closure, the news seemed to fly under the radar.

But social media soon saw motorists up in arms over getting two days' notice on the closure.

Some pointed out that Stockdale Highway is the gateway to Cal State Bakersfield, the city's only state university.

Others noted that a major hospital, Mercy Southwest, is off Stockdale Highway, and that Kaiser Permanente's Stockdale medical offices are almost directly across the street from the doomed off-ramp.

"I believe this is good news and a good decision," Hakimi said

Reporter Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.