BORON – The long awaited connection between Boron and Desert Lake has been completed; the Pedestrian Bike Path linking Boron with Desert Lake had a Ribbon Cutting ceremony officially opening the path on the afternoon of Oct. 1st. The event took place in front of the Espindola Family Grill with several dignitaries in attendance.
Anthony Espindola who is the President of the Boron Chamber of Commerce started things off by welcoming a handful of Boron and Desert Lake residents donning facemasks and practiced social distancing then he asked for a moment of silence for fallen U.S. Army SPC. Samuel Birmingham, who was killed in a traffic accident the night before. Mr. Birmingham and his family resided out in the Desert Lake area for several years before he enlisted into the United States Army after graduation in 2017; he was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas and living in the El Paso area at the time of his passing.
After the moment of silence, Espindola introduced the dignitaries who were Kern County Public Works Department Director Craig Pope, Kern County 2nd District Supervisor Zack Scrivner, Calif. 36th District Assemblyman Tom Lackey (who was born and raised in Boron), Rio-Tinto Manager of Government Affairs and Communities Marybeth Garrison, Mojave area CHP Commander Lt. John Williams and Boron Honorary Mayor Dale Slavinski.
The first speaker of the day was Calif. Assemblyman Tom Lackey, “I’m really glad to see people out here for the development; good things are happening in this community and I’m very thankful that we see some people that care. I grew up here; I left here some time ago about 1980 but I was brought here in 1960 so I’ve spent a considerable amount of time here and I’ve never lost my love for this area. I love the desert believe it or not and it’s country that I really appreciate. Thank you all for being here, thank you to Kern County, thank you all the people that have made this improvement possible because going to last a long time.”
The next speaker was Supervisor Scrivner, “Good afternoon, I know it’s hot and I do apologize but I have a few things I want to say. First off, I want to thank all of you for coming out and for being here to celebrate this very important county project and public safety between Boron and Desert Lake is what brought us all out here today. Since 2005, there have been 6 pedestrian and bicycle collisions, the lack of continuous safe pedestrian infrastructure forced people to walk and bike in the road right of way; dirt shoulders are dusty and difficult to walk in, there were many gaps in the sidewalk and lack of compliance with the American Disability Act (ADA) that put residents in danger. Twenty Mule Team Road is the main route between these two communities where many of the school children walk or ride their bikes to school, sports practices, the community pool and Boron Community Park but it’s the railroad right of way which has brought the most heartache to this community. The railway is shared by BNSF and Union Pacific Railroad and averages approximately 20-30 freight trains a day on a double track that allows trains to use the tracks at the same time in opposite directions averaging a speed of up to 70 MPH. Several deaths have occurred at the Boron Avenue crossing which was in such poor condition that you can lose your shoe and get stuck in the track. We knew we had to make it a priority for improvement so we contacted the Kern County Public Works Department to find out if there were any funding sources available to improve safety at the railroad crossing. We considered a pedestrian bridge which would have cost $15 million to go over the tracks, so we ended up focusing on what was attainable; with the help of the Calif. Public Utilities Commission and BNSF Railroad we were able to upgrade Kern County’s first ever ADA Pedestrian Railroad Crossing here in Boron! The Boron Avenue crossing is complete with sidewalk that connects to the railroad tracks and its ADA compliant with tactile strips, yellow truncated domes and a handrail; also the warning signals and sign have been added for increased visibility and safety-we’re not done. Thanks to the cooperation and support from Rio-Tinto Borates, a second railroad crossing is underway and will be ready very soon on Twenty Mule Team Road; the crossings were a big part of the success of the $2.32 million Cal-Trans Active Transportation Program grant secured by Kern County Public Works; Boron and Desert Lake residents Jeremiah Job, Kimberly Core, Kevin Cordes, Tami Gunter and Paul and Connie Kostopoulos along with Boron Honorary Mayor Dale Slavinski and several others wrote letters in support of the project and thanks to all of you, we got it done.; if it wasn’t for the community effort, we wouldn’t have been able to deliver it so thank you all. This is YOUR day, a day where it took community action to make this project happen”.
The next speaker was Kern County Public Works Director Craig Pope who has been with the county for 39 years and he laid out the details of the project. “I think Zack hit a point; the reason that this was a success was because of this community; without the letters of support, we wouldn’t have started like we did. Out of 500 applications, the Boron project was #3 in the state. The Project cost was approximately $2,536,331 and the funding source came from the Cal-Trans Active Transportation Program, the Boron/Desert Lake Pedestrian Bike Path was a $2,5 million project that improved bike paths, multi-use paths, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, curb ramps, drive approaches and paving of hot mix asphalt in the Boron community; supporters for the project included the folks mentioned above plus the communities of Boron and Desert Lake, the Muroc Joint Unified School District, Rio-Tinto Borates, Kern County Public Works, the Boron Chamber of Commerce and the Desert Lake Community Services District. We’ll be starting on the crossing sidewalk project next week and should be completed very soon”.
The final speaker of the day was Mojave area CHP Lt. John Williams who had this to say, “Good afternoon, thank you for having me here today; like everyone else had already said, this could not have happened without everyone’s hard work; thank you Assemblyman Lackey, Zack Scrivner, Kern County Public Works, etc; its amazing job, you guys did a great job. Let me give you some data; in 2018, 32% of our fatalities were pedestrian/bicycle involved and so I’m excited to say today, a grant just came in from Sacramento to our area giving me a little bit of money so that I could send officer to work out here and work on pedestrian/bicycle safety. Thank you for this; I’m glad to see it and please, stay safe out there, thank you”.
The ribbon cutting was done by Boron Honorary Mayor Dale while Lt. Williams, Supervisor Scrivner, Assemblyman Lackey, Craig Pope, Marybeth Garrison and Anthony Espindola held the ribbon.
The Mojave Desert News congratulates the communities of Boron and Desert Lake for their persistence in getting Kern County to provide this safety device for them and to the California Highway Patrol for keeping all of our state roadways safe.