Series of crashes illustrates ongoing problems on two-lane highway
Highway 119, the highway people have to drive and love to hate, is reverting back to its old ways.
Crashes, construction delays, reckless drivers, even fires are making life difficult and dangerous again.
Driving on the main route between Taft and Bakersfield had become relatively routine for the past couple of years. Increased California Highway Patrol enforcement, funded by grants other monies, seemed to have had the desired effect.
The number of accidents was off sharply.
But all that has changed.
A series of accidents starting last summer have injured several drivers (no one has been killed, however, and most of the injuries were relatively minor), blocked traffic and even cut cable television and internet service to the West Side.
There were two injury accidents last week as well as a fire that closed the highway for 40 minutes at the peak commuting time.
This week, a non-injury crash on the west end of Valley Acres blocked the westbound lane for more than a half hour starting just before 6 a.m.
Tuesday morning, the CHP received multiple reports of a car that ran cars off the road and caused several near-misses on Highway 119 between Midway Road and Valley West Road.
It's getting so bad that even KernCOG, which oversees transportation issues in the county, is taking notice.
Taft City Councilman Paul Linder is the city's representative on KernCOG, and he was joined by Fourth District Supervisor Ray Watson and Maricopa City Councilman Gary Mock in asking Caltrans to look at the traffic on the two-lane highway that has only one passing lane.
Caltrans hasn't done a traffic study on Highway 119 in several years, and Linder said traffic has increased significantly.
He commutes from his home in Taft to Bakersfield, and said on one recent morning he counted 400 cars going westbound in a 20 minute period as he drove eastbound from Midway Road to Highway 43.
But its not just the heavy traffic, he said.
Traffic got heavier about a month ago when school started, bringing in commuting teachers and TC students from Bakersfield and other Kern County cities.
The construction on the highway continued well after the increase in traffic, and at least a couple of accidents were caused by traffic slowing to turn left onto Honolulu Road to avoid long delays.
But Linder said it's more than that.
It's the way people drive.
“People are taking chances,” Linder said, in “desperate attempts” to pass.
KernCOG has to step in, he said.
“It's really not the road, its the stupidity of the people driving,” Linder said. “But its our job to take care of stupid.”