BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Caltrans announced it allocated another $91 million to build a truck lane up Highway 58 through the Tehachapi mountains Monday.
Now the project stands at $257 million, the project has been waiting for more than two decades.
With 45,000 vehicles and 7,000 trucks driving it every day, Highway 58 is the second heaviest truck route in the state.
Drivers who use it know the headache traffic can be, but long-awaited relief is coming with the addition of a third lane.
“The truck climbing lane, by adding a third lane, you can now lane control the trucks into the far lane, that’s the truck lane, and then the middle lane and you can control them in that place,” said Jay Schlosser, Tehachapi Development Services Director, “Meaning you can ticket them if they end up in the fast lane.”
Caltrans identified the need 23 years ago.
“In the year 2000 CalTrans identified the need, so we’ve been struggling over all these years. It’s a 23-year journey,” said Phil Smith, Board Member of Kern Council of Governments.
The project also includes repaving 11 miles on both sides of Highway 58, reshaping segments where rain makes it dangerous to transit through, and underground wildlife crossings to ultimately connect the Los Angeles National Forest with the Sequoia National Forest for wildlife.
“That’s kind of the perception that I believe CalTrans had in the beginning, that it was just a small community that was desiring this one-quarter of a billion dollars. But this is a vital east-west corridor for the state of California.” said Sen. Shannon Grove, (R) Bakersfield, “If you think about 99 and 58 going down, individuals would have to go all the way up to the 580 by Sacramento to be able to get across.”
But before traffic gets better, it will get worse.
“The motoring public won’t see any changes for well over two years. When the project starts in spring of 2026 there will be significant delays.” said Ahron Hakimi, Executive Director of Kern Council of Governments, “There will likely be 20 to 30-minute delays almost every day for the length of the project which will take about two years.”
Just last year Highway 58 saw four truck driver fatalities, and with 64% of the Tehachapi residents commuting every day, officials say it was time to rush this project.