Bakersfield @ AARoads

Bakersfield, which was founded in 1869 and incorporated in 1873, is a regional agricultural hub and located near the major oil fields of Oildale and Taft. The city had a population of 247,057 people as of the 2000 Census and had grown throughout the ensuing decade. The city sits at an elevation of 408 feet above seal level, consists of 140.53 square miles, and is located at the southern end of the Central Valley. Significant routes in Bakersfield include California 58 (east-west), California 99 (north-south), and California 178 (east into the Kern River Canyon to Lake Isabella).

Interstate 5 is the closest Interstate highway to serve Bakersfield. Following the Westside Highway, Interstate 5 stays west of Bakersfield and avoids most of the metropolitan area.

U.S. 99, now known as California 99 approaches the Bakersfield from the south. Splitting with Union Avenue, which is the historic route of U.S. 99 through the city, California 99 stays west of downtown Bakersfield. Union Avenue travels through the center of the city and provides access to most businesses. Joining with California 99 near downtown Bakersfield is east-west California 58, which originates in the California Central Coast and travels east through Bakersfield and Tehachapi Pass into the Mojave Desert.

U.S. 399 was decommissioned in 1964. The route began in Ventura, traveled north along California 33, then turned northeast on California 119 at Taft. For the final mileage of this short route, U.S. 399 shared alignment with U.S. 99 along Union Avenue to its end at U.S. 466/Sumner Street in downtown Bakersfield.

U.S. 466 was decommissioned in 1964 and was replaced by California 58 east of Bakersfield and California 46 (and a few other routes) west of Bakersfield (after a brief overlap with U.S. 99 north of the city). U.S. 466 still remains intact along Sumner Street and Edison Highway through central and eastern Bakersfield.

California 58 is the major east-west route through Bakersfield. Originating in the Central Coast area off U.S. 101 near Santa Margarita. California58 begins as a quiet, two-lane rural highway. However, after crossing Interstate 5 in the southwestern Central Valley near Buttonwillow, the route gains in importance. By the time it reaches Bakersfield, it is a four- to six-lane highway with significant commercial and residential development on both sides of the highway. California 58 briefly overlaps with California 99, then becomes a freeway as it travels east along the U.S. 466 corridor toward Tehachapi, Mojave, Boron, and Barstow. At Barstow, California 58 ends at its junction with Interstate 15, and the primary east-west route from that point eastward is Interstate 40 to Needles, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, and points east along the Historic U.S. 66 corridor.

California 99 is the main north-south corridor through the eastern Central Valley. Much more populated than the western side of the Central Valley, the eastern side is home to cities such as Bakersfield, Visalia, Fresno, Madera, and Modesto. California 99 passes directly through these cities, while Interstate 5 bypasses these cities to the west and does not come close to California 99 until near Manteca and Stockton. California 99 is the original route of U.S. 99, which was decommissioned in stages starting in 1964. Old alignments of the original route are preserved as business routes in the urban areas, and the freeway has been continuously upgraded to six-lane freeway standards (an ongoing effort). Some in the Central Valley would like to see California 99 added as an Interstate Highway (probably Interstate 7 or Interstate 9), but such an addition would require substantial upgrades to California 99, especially its bridges which do not have the minimum height requirements.

California 178 is a trans-Sierra Nevada highway that originates in Bakersfield and travels northeast to Lake Isabella via the Kern River Canyon. At Lake Isabella, California 178 turns east to cross Walker Pass and meet California 14 at Freeman Junction. California 178 continues east through Inyokern and Ridgecrest, ending near Trona in the Mojave Desert. A separate section of California 178 exists east of Death Valley and travels east through Shoshone into Nevada. It is unlikely that the current gap in California 178 between Trona and Death Valley will be built, so the best alternate is to take local roads to California 190, then rejoin California 178 southeast of Badwater. While portions of California 178 are built to freeway standards, the majority of this state route is two-lane rural highway.

California 99 Business is the old alignment of U.S. 99-399 (south of Sumner Street) and U.S. 99-466 (north of Sumner Street/23rd Street). The section of California 99 Business north of California 58 to the California 99 interchange is maintained by the state and co-signed as California 204. The route of old U.S. 99 (now California 99 Business) includes Union Avenue from California 99 (Golden State Freeway) Exit 11 north to the intersection with Golden State Avenue, then past Garces Circle to rejoin California 99 at Exit 27 (Airport Drive interchange). Owing to significant traffic volume leading from downtown Bakersfield to the California 99 freeway, the northern section of California 204 as it passes over the Kern River and joins California 99 is a freeway.

Panorama Drive

Panorama Drive is a Bakersfield city street notable for its route along Panorama Park, which offers magnificent views toward the Kern River, Sierra Nevada, Oildale, and oilfields north of the city. It is also the best route from Union Avenue to Alfred Harrell Highway.

Panorama Drive east
Union Avenue reaches its north end at this point, where Manor Street turns northwest and Panorama Drive turns northeast. Photo taken 03/15/09.
After Manor Street and Panorama Drive split from Union Avenue, Panorama Drive turns northeast to parallel Panorama Park, a beautiful green space that overlooks the Kern River below it. Parking is available on the street and at nearby parking lots; the view is worth it. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Panorama Park comes into view on the north side of Panorama Drive. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Residences line the south side of Panorama Drive. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The Sierra Nevada foothills also come into view in the distance along Panorama Drive. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Eastbound Panorama Drive meets River Boulevard at this traffic signal. The Greenlawn Memorial Park Cemetery is located at the southwestern quadrant of this intersection; Panorama Park continues along top of the southern bluff above the Kern River. Photo taken 03/15/09.
This view looks east on Panorama Drive at Bryn Mawr Drive. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Panorama Park continues for just a short distance longer. Ahead is the traffic signal with Haley Street and Bakersfield College. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The do not enter signs on the left are a one-way off-ramp from westbound Alfred Harrell Highway (via China Grade Loop) onto westbound Panorama Drive. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Eastbound Panorama Drive meets Haley Street. On the right (south) side of Panorama Drive is Bakersfield College. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Opened in 1913, Bakersfield College is a community college that is among the oldest such colleges in the state. The main campus of the college is located on the south side of Panorama Drive and encompasses approximately 153 acres, with an average enrollment of about 15,000 students. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The next traffic signal along Panorama Drive east is with Mount Vernon Avenue south and Alfred Harrell Highway east. Mount Vernon Avenue travels south along the eastern edge of Bakersfield College and connects to both California 178 and California 58. To the northeast, Alfred Harrell Highway is a locally maintained freeway that extends to Hart Memorial County Park along the Kern River. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Eastbound Panorama Drive meets Mount Vernon Avenue south and Alfred Harrell Highway east. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Panorama Drive scenes
This suite of photos shows the view looking north, east, and west across the Kern River toward the unincorporated community of Oildale and the oilfields located east of Oildale and north of Bakersfield. The Kern River flows silently below the Panorama Park bluff, along with the South Side Kern Island Canal. Hundreds of oil derricks dot the hills north of the river. The last few pictures show the park itself, which is mostly turf between the edge of the bluff and Panorama Drive. Photos taken 03/15/09.

Alfred Harrell Highway

Alfred Harrell Highway is a locally maintained freeway (not in the state highway system) that connects Mount Vernon Drive and Panorama Drive with Hart Memorial County Park, with interchanges at China Grade Loop, Fairfax Road/County Dump Road, and Goodmanville Access Road. The highway begins on a bluff and travels northeast as it lowers elevation to the park. According to California Highway Historian Michael Ballard, the freeway portion was built between 1956 and 1958 using Federal Aid Secondary (FAS) funds.

Alfred Harrell Highway east
Northbound Mount Vernon Avenue approaches Panorama Drive. Turn left here to downtown Bakersfield (four miles west on Panorama Drive) or straight ahead (northeast on Alfred Harrell Highway) to Hart Memorial County Park. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Mount Vernon Avenue meets Panorama Drive at this traffic signal. Turn left for Panorama Drive west, right for Panorama Drive east, or straight ahead for Alfred Harrell Highway northeast to Hart Memorial County Park. Photo taken 03/15/09.
After the Panorama Drive intersection, Alfred Harrell Highway makes a sharp turn toward the east. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Almost immediately, the Alfred Harrell Highway begins to lower in elevation. It must drop from the bluff top down to the level of the Kern River by the time it enters Hart Memorial County Park. A Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) power line is visible on the other side of the highway. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The Sierra Nevada foothills come into view as Alfred Harrell Highway continues northeast. Photo taken 03/15/09.
One Pacific Gas and Electric and one Southern California Edison transmission line parallel each other on the slope above the Kern River. Photo taken 03/15/09.
With such steep slopes, the potential for landslides is great. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The houses above Alfred Harrell Highway (on Rio Vista Drive) have great views but must be concerned about the steep bluff on which they sit. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Signage on the Alfred Harrell Highway is poor. There is no advance guide sign for the first interchange along eastbound, which connects to China Grade Loop (left exit). Photo taken 03/15/09.
Alfred Harrell Highway passes under the power transmission lines at the same point where the first exit departs to the left. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Eastbound Alfred Harrell Highway meets China Grade Loop north to Round Mountain Road. Use Round Mountain Road east to Oil City and west to Oildale. Photo taken 03/15/09.
A very small guide sign at the gore point shows the split: stay left for Oildale or right for Hart Memorial County Park. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Traffic from China Grade Loop merges onto Alfred Harrell Highway from the left. Two lanes of Alfred Highway continue east as the highway approaches the bottom of the grade. Photo taken 03/15/09.
After the China Grade Loop interchange, the Alfred Harrell Highway finally gains a standard freeway look and feel, with two lanes in each direction separated by a concrete median strip. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The next exit along eastbound Alfred Harrell Highway is with Fairfax Road. Use Fairfax Road south into eastern Bakersfield. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Oddly, not even a standard EXIT sign is posted at the gore point for eastbound Alfred Harrell Highway at Fairfax Road. Photo taken 03/15/09.
After the Fairfax Road interchange, a pair of 55 mile per hour "maximum speed" signs are posted along eastbound Alfred Harrell Highway. Photo taken 03/15/09.
This series of photos profiles the Alfred Harrell Highway as it continues east between the Fairfax Road and Goodmanville Road interchanges. The highway stays close to the edge of the large bluffs and palisades that separate the Kern River bottom from the higher country to the south. While much of the land south of the Harrell Highway is part of the city of Bakersfield, the area north and west of the highway is unincorporated Kern County, including the river itself. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The next exit along eastbound Alfred Harrell Highway is with Goodmanville Road. This interchange provides local access for properties on the south side of the Kern River, including those on Shadow Hills Drive. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Eastbound Alfred Harrell Highway meets Goodmanville Road at this exit ramp. Once again, there is no gore point EXIT sign nor are there any large signs to ease legibility. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The Alfred Harrell Highway crosses over Goodmanville Road. At this point, the highway is traveling due north (as the highway follows the flow of the nearby Kern River). Like the Fairfax Road interchange, the Goodmanville Road interchange is a standard diamond. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The median barrier narrows a bit as the Alfred Harrell Highway continues east. Photo taken 03/15/09.
A set of 220kV Southern California Edison power lines cross over the Alfred Harrell Highway. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The median barrier is almost non-existent as the Alfred Harrell Highway turns east again ahead of the freeway end. Photos taken 03/15/09.
Due to recent winter rains, the normally brown hills are a verdant green. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The speed limit of the Alfred Harrell Highway reduces to 25 miles per hour. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Eastbound Alfred Harrell Highway approaches the entrance to Hart Memorial Park. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The left lane of the Alfred Harrell Highway ends; the speed limit will drop to 25 miles per hour as the highway passes through the park. Photo taken 03/15/09.
A low wall and gate block access into the park except for the freeway travel lanes. Ahead, watch for cross traffic, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The character of the Alfred Harrell Highway changes dramatically. The eastbound lanes become two-way upon reaching Lily Drive. Photo taken 03/15/09.
This series of photos shows the Alfred Harrell Highway as it passes through Hart Memorial Park after the large entrance sign (not shown). The highway is now just a standard two-lane park road, quite different from its freeway configuration seen leading down the hill from Bakersfield. Photo taken 03/15/09.
A small guide sign indicates that Alfred Harrell Highway continues east to Ming Lake, Kern River Golf Course, Rio Bravo, and California 178/Kern Canyon Road. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Between Hart Park and Kern River Park, the Alfred Harrell Highway retains two lanes. Recreational areas are now generally to the side of the highway via secondary routes, and cars aren't parked alongside the highway as frequently. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The California Living Museum (CALM) is located on the north side of the Alfred Harrell Highway. Photo taken 03/15/09.
Turn left here to the California Living Museum (CALM). Photo taken 03/15/09.
The next major intersection along the Alfred Harrell Highway is with Lake Ming Road north to Lake Ming and the Kern River Golf Course. Continue straight to the junction with California 178. Photo taken 03/15/09.
The speed limit of the Alfred Harrell Highway increases back to 55 miles per hour for the first time since entering Hart Park. However, this section of highway is not built to freeway standards. Photo taken 03/15/09.
A short distance later, the Alfred Harrell Highway turns south to leave the river and eventually meets California 178 at this traffic signal. A realignment completed in 2006 allows motorists to continue straight to connect to southbound Comanche Drive. Previously, the Alfred Harrell Highway and Comanche Drive did not directly connect without a brief overlap on California 178. Comanche Drive travels south through rural and agricultural areas to California 58/Bakersfield-Tehachapi Highway Exit 121. Photo taken 03/15/09.

Page Updated September 19, 2009.

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