More than $260M in projects will improve Highway 58 over next five years

More than $260 million in improvements to Highway 58 between Tehachapi and Bakersfield are in the works over the next five years. Last week, the Kern Council of Governments announced that the California Transportation Commission awarded $9.3 million for the final ramp for the interchange at Highway 99 and Highway 58 as part of more than $2.2 billion to fund projects across the state. According to a news release issued by KernCOG, the Highway 58 mainline connection from Highway 99 to the 7-mile Westside Parkway freeway is scheduled to open to traffic with a ribbon-cutting this September, providing connectivity to Interstate 5 via Stockdale Highway west of Bakersfield.

“The new funding is critical to help keep heavy-duty vehicles off our neighborhood streets, providing smoother traffic flows and thereby reducing emissions, including in many of our historically disadvantaged communities,” said Ahron Hakimi, executive director of KernCOG. Once the connector is open, the agency said, two more Highway 99 and 58 interchange ramps will be completed over the next several years — the 58 westbound to northbound and the 99 southbound to westbound movements.

According to Caltrans, the estimated construction cost for the Centennial Corridor Southbound Highway 99 and westbound Highway 58 Connector project is more than $29 million. It is expected to be complete by summer 2028. The funding to complete the final ramp for the 99-to-58 freeway-to-freeway interchange comes from the Trade Corridor Enhancement Program. The program is funded by state and federal fuel taxes, including the Senate Bill 1 Transportation Improvement Fee.

Closer to Tehachapi, as reported by officials from the city of Tehachapi, Caltrans is moving forward with the $165 million Keene Pavement Project and a $65.9 million truck climbing lane project. The Keene Pavement Project will remove four curves, replace disintegrating pavement and make other improvements on a 10- to 12-mile stretch of Highway 58 just west of Tehachapi. That section of the highway has been the scene of numerous accidents in recent years, including big rig crashes that resulted in closures lasting many hours. According to the Caltrans District 9 quarterly report, the project will begin in March 2026 and is expected to be completed by November 2026. District 9 also oversees another long-awaited project — a truck climbing lane on eastbound 58 between Bakersfield and Tehachapi.

Although two or three segments of truck climbing lanes have been discussed through the years, the project expected to be underway first is what Caltrans calls the most critical section of Highway 58 through the Tehachapi Mountains  —  from approximately 0.8 miles east of the junction with State Route 223 to 0.4 miles west of Hart Flat Road.   This project was originally proposed to begin in 2027. However, city officials have reported ongoing efforts to work with Caltrans, state Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, and KernCOG to consolidate the truck climbing lane project with the Keene Pavement Project, with both to begin in 2026 or as early as 2025.

At a Tehachapi City Council meeting in May, Councilman Phil Smith said Grove set up a meeting between local officials and the new Caltrans Director Tony Tavares, who was appointed to lead the state’s transportation agency in June 2022. Smith has served on the Tehachapi City Council since 1986 and as a member of the Kern COG Board of Directors since 1995. He has advocated for improvements to Highway 58 — and specifically the truck climbing lanes.

He said city officials were encouraged in an initial meeting when Tavares said that Highway 58 is “an extremely significant route.” And Caltrans District 9 Director Ryan Dermody said it is “the most important route in District 9.”  Hakimi, of KernCOG — which is the county’s transportation planning agency — and Tehachapi City Manager Greg Garrett have also been involved in the meetings, Smith said, along with city Development Services Director Jay Schlosser. Garrett and Smith have since reported that Caltrans has committed to funding and moving forward with the truck climbing lane project.

The segment of the project expected to be completed first is the most easterly of planned truck passing lanes on the eastbound side of Highway 58 between Bakersfield and Tehachapi, Smith said. The lower elevation section of the highway is part of Caltrans District 6, headquartered in Fresno, and details of when that part of the project might move forward are not currently available. District 9 is headquartered in Bishop.

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