Boron – For many years now, highway 58 between Boron and Kramer Junction has been the site of several deadly traffic accidents, weekend traffic back-ups and traffic delays due to the railroad crossing and the current two-lane highway leading to and from Kramer Junction. Boron residents and business owners who currently live and work in Kramer Junction usually have to leave early in order to arrive to work on time. Well, good news is finally here. After nearly 40 years of talks between San Bernardino County, Kern County, State officials and Cal-Trans, the final Environmental Impact Report/Statements have been approved for an expansion project of the highway. The project is known as the “State Route 58 (SR-58) Kramer Junction Expressway Project”.
According to a letter dated July 18, 2014 from Kurt Heidelberg, at the Calif. Dept. of Transportation District #8 Division of Environmental Planning in San Bernardino, “The Calif. Dept. of Transportation is proposing to realign and widen a 13.3 mile segment of State Route 58 from 0.4 miles west of the Kern/San Bernardino County line to a point which is approximately 7.5 miles east of Kramer Junction from a two-lane conventional highway to a four-lane expressway; and construct an interchange at the 58/395 junction. In addition, the project would involve the construction of crossing structures (railroad overpasses) above the BNSF rail line where it intersects with SR-58 approximately 2.5 miles east of Kramer Junction”. The letter includes the final Environmental Impact Report as well as the final Environmental Impact Statement. A draft copy of the Environmental Impact Report and the Environmental Impact Statement was prepared by Cal-Trans in June 2013 and are available for public viewing at the Kern County Library Boron Branch.
An open forum public informational meeting took place at the Roadhouse Restaurant on August 6, 2013 where property owners, businesses, residents and elected officials asked questions and provided feedback as to the three plans which were presented at the meeting by Cal-Trans. After reviewing all the public comments submitted, Cal-Trans identified Alternative Plan 1A as the Preferred Alternative and have completed the final Environmental Impact Report and the Environmental Impact Statements for the proposed project.
The expressway will be constructed in 10 phases - the first phase starting just west of the San Bernardino/Kern County line. According to the report, “Full closures of the existing highway will not be required during construction due to the distance of the build alternatives from the existing alignment. Where the alignments overlap, the new expressway would be constructed on the new alignment and connected to the existing highway 58”. It is unclear at this time whether or not traffic flow will be disrupted at Kramer Junction when phases 4 and 5 (interchange construction) begin.
Before construction of the expressway begins, Cal-Trans along with NextEra Energy and the Dept. of Defense at Edwards Air Force Base and other Federal, State and County agencies are currently working on a plan to replace utility poles for the project. The “Kramer Junction Expressway Replacement of Electrical Utility Poles” Environmental Assessment Report was completed and submitted on December 29, 2016 which would require NextEra Energy to remove and replace utility poles currently in place on the proposed site of the expressway project. According to the Assessment Report, “The utility pole replacement is a minor action that’s needed for the Kramer Junction Expressway Project”. During the designing phase of the expressway, planners noticed that the electrical power lines used by NextEra Energy would conflict with the roadway overpass (bridge) which will be built just north of Kramer Junction. The Assessment Reports also states, “In order to accommodate the height requirements of the overpass, (bridge) the utility poles need to be removed and replaced with taller poles in order to meet the vertical clearance needed for the expressway project”. The current placement of the poles is on property owned by the Dept. of Defense at Edwards Air Force Base and the utility lines are operated by NextEra Energy. The new utility poles would be set approximately 10 feet southwest of the existing poles and at a height of 30 feet or higher. Before the expressway project begins, another public outreach effort will be made during the designing and construction stages and will summarize the final Environmental Documents which will include public comments and responses to those comments for the proposed actions.
For more information or to review the above mentioned documents and project maps, fee free to contact the Kern County Library Boron Branch during regular business hours which are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.