Valley cities want to get out of weeds along its highways. One alternative is popping up.

Valley cities are growing tired of an eyesore of weeds cropping up along their highways.

Project Offramp cleaned up Fresno’s freeways, moving the homeless population that was once lining the embankments away from the traffic and many of them into shelters. 

While the city’s freeways are still blighted with overgrown grass, shrubs and weeds, Fresno could look to Bakersfield for inspiration to push for hardscaping and ultimately reduce maintenance costs years down the line. 


Driving the news: Bakersfield is currently pushing for hardscaping projects throughout its portion of Highway 99, according to a report from the Bakersfield Californian. 

  • Because all highways are state-owned, Caltrans is responsible for maintaining Highway 99 through Bakersfield. Caltrans is reportedly exploring alternatives to maintaining the costly green space along the highway. One such idea that Bakersfield City Manager Christian Clegg is pushing for is hardscaping. 
  • Hardscaping is a decorative type of landscaping that includes materials like concrete, rock and granite that do not use any water to maintain. 

State of play: Caltrans and the City of Fresno could partner on beautifying Fresno’s freeways by opting to go with hardscaping. 

  • Both sides have worked together already on Project Offramp, and the two are also partners on Beautify Fresno, Measure C, and Clean California. 
  • Clean California, the state’s beautification program, is providing funds to install hardscape at Highway 99 and Fresno St. interchange and the Highway 41 and Divisadero St. interchange. 
  • Caltrans District 6 covers Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern Counties and is based in Fresno. District 6 spokesperson Elizabeth Yelton told The Sun that Caltrans continues to explore hardscaping throughout Fresno and has been taking a more balanced approach regarding paving, rock mulches and planting along the roadways. One recent hardscaping project was the installation of a rock blanket along the Highway 99 and Clinton Ave. overpass.

What they’re saying: “The utilization of hardscaping has many benefits, including minimizing the amount of time that maintenance crews spend on the side of the road and the amount of maintenance that is needed to keep the area safe and aesthetically pleasing,” Yelton said in an email. 

  • The main factor keeping Caltrans from hardscaping is the high initial installation costs, and Yelton also pointed to the fact that hardscaping is often prone to graffiti and still requires maintenance with herbicides. 
  • “While ultimately Caltrans holds the ability to maintain their right of way as needed or desired, we also take into consideration the environmental benefits and regulations that need to be followed,” Yelton said. “In some areas, we plant low water use and native trees to help minimize the environmental impacts that vehicle use brings. While trees, shrubs, and even non-native grasses can become overwhelming in some locations, they serve a purpose of reducing near road air pollution, sequester carbon, reduce glare, reduce heat island effect, block some objectionable views (junk yards, etc.) and improve the views from the highway.” 
  • City of Fresno spokeswoman Sontaya Rose said Mayor Jerry Dyer is in favor of hardscaping and likes how it has been utilized in Arizona and Las Vegas.
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