Construction, crashes bring traffic to a standstill on busy highway

Traffic delays caused by paving work continued to create headaches for motorists using heavily traveled Highway 119, better known as Taft Highway.
Traffic delays of up to 20 minutes have been routine for the past two months as crews from Granite Construction Co. of Bakersfield have worked on a stretch of highway from just west of Airport Road to the traffic signal at the Kmart shopping center.
But it all came to a complete standstill Thursday morning when a crash at Airport Road snarled traffic in both directions.
Apparently one motorist was attempting a left turn onto Airport road in an effort to go around the traffic jam when he collided with an eastbound vehicle.
One man suffered minor injuries in the accident and was taken to Mercy Southwest Hospital by ambulance.
The crash completely halted traffic in both directions for more than a half hour on the highway and up to 50 vehicles that tried to use Airport road to go around the mess was delayed
Ironically, the paving work was scheduled to be finished later that day.
It is not known whether Thursday’s huge traffic jam that included cars and trucks backed up on Airport Road as well will delay completion.
The long delays have taken a toll on people's patience at at one point last week Taft Police were call when tempers flared during long delays on the highway at Gardner Field Road.
Caltrans spokesperson Gloria Rodriguez said the project, which involved remediation work before a fresh layer of asphalt-concrete was applied, is now targeted for completion in “the second week in September.”
The project was originally scheduled to be finished mid-July, but problems achieving the appropriate mixture for paving pushed the finish date to mid-August.
“That problem required additional testing, which delayed things a month and a half,” she said.
Rodriguez said that once the paving portion is finished, shoulders must be replaced, some electrical work is needed, a guardrail has to be raised and the roadway striped.
The project was initially scheduled for completion mid-July, but that was moved to mid-August and now to early September.
One-way controlled traffic around portions of the roadway where paving work is being done had routinely created traffic delays of up to 15-20 minutes.
As the project dragged on, some motorists began using alternate routes – primarily Airport Road, and that additional congestion on the county road may have contributed to Thursday’s nightmare.