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Monday, Oct 14 2013 11:03 AM

CalTrans awards grant for Challenger Drive extension

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City of Tehachapi officials obtained a $1.5 million grant from CalTrans to extend Challenger Drive, in Capital Hills, to North Dennison Road, creating a second access point for the areas on the north side Highway 58. Photo courtesy of City of Tehachapi

A city street project that will improve access to the new Tehachapi Hospital under construction has received state funding.

According to a press release issued by CalTrans, the department allocated $359 million to 36 projects state-wide on Oct. 8. Tehachapi's Challenger Drive extension was awarded $1.5 million from the funding.

"These projects allow millions of dollars to flow into construction and produce enormous economic benefits for California," said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

City Engineer Jay Schlosser said the city has spent the last five years or so working to obtain the grant, and the receipt of the money came as no surprise.

Schlosser explained the purpose of the project.

"It serves a dual purpose," he said. "It will provide secondary emergency access for the [new] hospital and secondary access for residents."

Currently, only North Mill Street provides a route across Highway 58 to Capital Hills, where the new hospital is being built, and Arabian Drive residents who live in a large lot subdivision north of Highway 58 can only get to the city via North Dennison Road.

Challenger Drive -- in Capital Hills -- will be extended parallel to Highway 58 to connect with North Dennison Road.

The road will be two lanes with paved shoulders, the engineer explained. While building the road, crews will also redo some of the fencing and the drainage culverts.

Schlosser added that work is slated to begin in the spring of 2014. Assuming the project is completed within the year, the extension will be open prior to the new hospital's projected opening in 2015.

Mike Funderberg, a project manager for Bernards Colombo -- the contracting company tasked with the new hospital construction -- explained what the extension would mean for the new hospital.

"It's really a complement to the current project," he said. "It will afford the public additional access to the hospital."

Now the city must wait for CalTrans to complete the final paperwork and issue a construction permit, Schlosser said, adding that this final stage may take a couple of months.

"From a paperwork and permit perspective, we're right on track," Schlosser said.

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