Highway 58 Improvement Plans: $260 Million Worth of Upgrades Announced

Over the next five years, more than $260 million worth of improvements are planned for Highway 58 between Tehachapi and Bakersfield.

Recently, the Kern Council of Governments announced that the California Transportation Commission has granted $9.3 million for the final ramp of the interchange at Highway 99 and Highway 58. This funding is part of a larger allocation of over $2.2 billion for projects throughout the state.

Scheduled for a ribbon-cutting ceremony this September, the Highway 58 mainline connection from Highway 99 to the 7-mile Westside Parkway freeway will open to traffic. This will enhance connectivity to Interstate 5 via Stockdale Highway to the west of Bakersfield.

Ahron Hakimi, the executive director of KernCOG, emphasized the importance of the new funding in diverting heavy-duty vehicles away from residential areas. This will result in smoother traffic flow, reduced emissions, and particularly benefit historically disadvantaged communities.

After the completion of the connector, two additional interchange ramps will be constructed in the coming years: one for westbound Highway 58 to northbound Highway 99, and the other for southbound Highway 99 to westbound Highway 58.

The estimated construction cost for the Centennial Corridor Southbound Highway 99 and westbound Highway 58 Connector project is over $29 million, with a target completion date of summer 2028, according to Caltrans.

The funding for the final ramp of the Highway 99-to-58 interchange comes from the Trade Corridor Enhancement Program, which is supported by state and federal fuel taxes, including the Senate Bill 1 Transportation Improvement Fee.

Additionally, there are other projects underway in the vicinity of Tehachapi. The Keene Pavement Project, costing $165 million, aims to eliminate curves, replace deteriorating pavement, and make various improvements along a 10- to 12-mile section of Highway 58 west of Tehachapi.

This segment has been prone to accidents, including significant collisions involving trucks that caused lengthy closures. The project is expected to commence in March 2026 and conclude by November 2026, according to the Caltrans District 9 quarterly report.

Another long-awaited project overseen by District 9 is the construction of a truck climbing lane on eastbound Highway 58 between Bakersfield and Tehachapi.

While multiple segments for truck climbing lanes have been discussed over the years, the first planned section is considered the most critical, covering approximately 0.8 miles east of the junction with State Route 223 to 0.4 miles west of Hart Flat Road.

Initially proposed to begin in 2027, efforts are being made to consolidate this project with the Keene Pavement Project, potentially starting in 2026 or as early as 2025 through coordination between Tehachapi city officials, Caltrans, State Senator Shannon Grove, and KernCOG.

During a Tehachapi City Council meeting in May, Councilman Phil Smith mentioned a meeting arranged by Senator Grove between local officials and Caltrans Director Tony Tavares, who assumed leadership of the state’s transportation agency in June 2022.

Smith, a long-serving council member, and advocate for Highway 58 improvements, stated that Tavares recognized the significance of the highway, and Ryan Dermody, Director of Caltrans District 9, labeled it as the most important route in their district.

Hakimi from KernCOG, along with Tehachapi City Manager Greg Garrett and city Development Services Director Jay Schlosser, have been involved in these meetings, according to Smith.

Garrett and Smith reported that Caltrans has committed to funding and progressing with the truck climbing lane project.

The initial phase of the project, focused on the easternmost section of the planned truck passing lanes on the eastbound side of Highway 58 between Bakersfield and Tehachapi, is anticipated to be completed first.

The lower elevation portion of the highway falls under Caltrans District 6, headquartered in Fresno, and details regarding the timeline for that segment are currently unavailable. District 9, which encompasses the Tehachapi Mountains, has its headquarters in Bishop.

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