A Valley community split by a highway often filled with tourists in a hurry to get to the coast is getting $2 million from the state to address safety concerns.
Highway 41 through Kettleman City is a main route for local travelers heading to Pismo Beach, Morro Bay and other Central Coast destinations. For years, the small Kings County town has envisioned building a pedestrian bridge over the busy roadway to create a safer path for those crossing from one side to the other.
The newly allocated state dollars, along with $2 million in county funding, will soon turn that vision into reality.
Elementary School Kids Face Dangerous Crossing
One of the reigning concerns throughout the years has been the safety of students who attend Kettleman Elementary School, located on the west side of the highway.
According to a county report, students are often required to cross the highway at intersections that provide almost no warning for drivers to slow down. In fact, the report says motorists on Highway 41 through the town often fail to observe posted speed limits and marked crosswalks.
The speed limit through the residential section of Kettleman City is posted at 45 mph, although most drivers heading from the Valley to the coast often travel at speeds reaching up to 70 mph, the report said.
Assemblymember Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, secured the funding in the latest state budget.
“With the construction of the Kettleman City pedestrian bridge, our kids will be able to get to school safely and parents will no longer have to worry about their children having to brave traffic just so they can get an education or access the local park,” Salas said at a Thursday news conference.
Proposed Bridge Designs
Deadly Stretch of Highway
Between 2006 to 2016, there were over 200 collisions, including four fatalities along the two mile stretch through Kettleman, according to state data.
In addition to cars heading to the coast and back, the highway’s traffic includes semi-trucks that often fail to yield to pedestrians, a news release from Salas’ office notes. From 2009 – 2014, the roadway through Kettleman City was one of the deadliest in the state according to data from the California Highway Patrol, the release said.
The Kings County Fire Department, which has a station in Kettleman City, has long urged local leaders to improve pedestrian safety through the busy corridor.
“Many of the personnel that have worked at Station 9 over the years have had multiple calls with the public being involved in accidents due to the lack of safe crossing for the community,” the department wrote in a letter supporting the bridge project.
Kristi Castillo, principal of Kettleman City Elementary noted that the summer months can be particularly dangerous as people make their summer trips to the coast.
“It is during this time when it is more common to see cars and trucks refusing to slow down or stop for pedestrian traffic,” said Castillo. “The foggy season is also a worrisome time because the inclement weather makes it that much more difficult for drivers to physically see pedestrians attempting to cross the highway.”