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Why we do what we do

From the Development Services Director


As a municipal service engineer for over 15 years, I cannot count the times I have been asked about a decision I have made regarding a public facility. Most of the time it is a genuine desire to understand why we chose to pursue a certain project. On a few occasions, it's a veiled criticism of what was, to the asker, an obviously wrong choice. The practice of civil engineering and municipal project design does not always follow a path of obvious short-term needs. Instead, in many cases it is an exercise in addressing practical realities and making the best of a situation for the long-term. It also involves balancing needs and desires against risks, value added, and (of course) available funds.

One practical reality of our time is that vehicular traffic has grown by leaps and bounds all across California in the last several decades. In 2014 for instance, there were 185 billion miles driven on California highways alone. That's 5 billion more miles driven on state roadways than in 2013. An improving economy (think more workers commuting) and cheaper gasoline will likely spur even more miles this year. This is a particularly challenging problem for civil engineers. As the cost of building roads grow, and the space to expand shrinks, engineers must become more and more creative in the effort to move people from place to place.

Understanding that expansion of roadways can't solve all of our transportation needs, legislators at the State and Federal levels have approached the issue with alternate transportation ideas. Love it or hate it, projects like the High Speed Rail were conceived of as a way to take cars off of the road. Targeting State and Federal funds for bicycle and pedestrian improvements is another legislative attempt to tackle a growing challenge.

That's not to say that all State and Federal funds are going to alternative transportation projects. Thankfully, there are still funds available for safety. Take for example, the East Tehachapi Traffic Improvements Project that is currently under construction around the intersection of Tehachapi Boulevard and Highway 58 near Love's Travel Center. The project is based upon a demonstrated need to make safety improvements in the area. We achieve that goal by improving roadway geometries, installing traffic control devices, and by making separate spaces for pedestrians and vehicles.

Make no mistake, the majority of the project funding is focused on improving vehicular movements through this area. To do that, three new traffic signals are to be constructed. These signals will be interconnected to help maximize the efficiency of vehicle movements. The intersection of Tehachapi Boulevard and Monolith Street (entrance street to Love's Travel Center) will also be widened to better accommodate those big truck turning motions. Regardless of the need for the project, one thing is certain; public projects are designed with certain goals in mind and we expect this project to be a strong enhancement to the longterm safety and efficiency of our roadway network.


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