Community leaders broke ground Wednesday at the new Mohawk Street bridge, officially beginning the final phase of construction for the Centennial Corridor, a $147 million project that will create an east-west freeway through Bakersfield.

Once complete, the project will connect Westside Parkway to Highway 58. A bridge connecting the two thoroughfares will cross over California Ave. and Stockdale Hwy. The project is part of the $1.4 billion Thomas Roads Improvement Program, also known as TRIP, named after former Bakersfield Congressman William “Bill” Thomas.

In 2005, then-Congressman Thomas successfully secured $630 million for a number of transportation projects throughout Kern county, including the Centennial Corridor.

“It has national significance because kern county is an east-west county in a north-south state,” Thomas said. “We have plenty of highways running north and south, and didn’t really have anything running east to west.”

The project will give drivers a direct route to access major interstates, including I-5. Local leaders shared their excited for what’s to come.

“The Centennial Corroder Mainline Project is the door of opportunity for the community of Bakersfield and the communities around us,” said Mayor Karen Goh.

Bakersfield City Councilmember Andrae Gonzales shared in the excitement.

“The fact that we will now have a connection between highway 58 and Westside parkway is remarkable,” he said.

“It serves local as well as inter-regional,” noted City Manager Alan Tandy.

Thomas said a growing Bakersfield will greatly benefit.

“It means the world to Bakersfield primarily and fundamentally on the ability to stay connected on the large city Bakersfield has become.”

The city recently received a 50-million dollar grant from the federal government. That means Bakersfield will not have to borrow money to finish the project.

The final phase of the centennial corridor project is expected to be complete by 2023.