Storm Causes Highway 18 Collapse - Mountain News : News

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Storm Causes Highway 18 Collapse

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Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2019 9:00 am

Caltrans has signed a $2.5 million contract to repair the damage to California State Route 18 (SR-18) after heavy storms caused multiple parts of the highway to collapse under its own weight, but more damage to infrastructure may incur even higher costs after another oncoming storm.

The SR-18 closure begins five miles north of the SR-33 junction in Snow Valley and ends the Big Bear Dam.

The storm on Valentine’s Day last week brought an estimated total of more than 4.5 inches of rain, bringing the combined total so far for this February to an estimated 12.42 inches, according to the University of California Cooperative Extension of Orange County (UCCE).

These numbers are higher than previous years when a total of .66 inches was reported in February 2018, 3.39 inches in February 2017 and .44 inches in February 2016, according to UCCE.

Terri Kasinga, spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), said heavy rains coming after snowfall creates an excess of water that erodes the soil beneath the roads, causing the collapse on SR-18.

“(Road collapses) happen like this from time to time but nothing like the magnitude that we saw on Valentine’s Day,” Kasinga said.

Caltrans has contracted with Riverside Construction to repair the damage for $2.5 million, but that figure could go up if other damaged areas are discovered or if this week’s storm causes additional damage.

The National Weather Service is forecasting another possible snow and rain storm this week, beginning on Wednesday night and continuing until Friday afternoon.

Snow levels are expected to recede to 1,500 feet during the Thursday, Feb. 21 storm, according to a news release by Caltrans. 

“We are going to get more storms,” Kasinga said. “It’s not over until it’s over.”

Kasinga said early estimates expect the reconstruction of the damaged SR-18 areas to take around two weeks before being reopened to any traffic.

Highway 473 and 74 were hit the hardest during last week’s storm and will cost $8 million and $3.5 million to repair, respectively, Kasinga added.

Zach Behrens, spokesman for San Bernardino National Forest, released a letter explaining to the public the “know before you go” policy for people considering visiting the mountain in its current condition.

“We always recommend people research their trips into a storm like this because conditions can change in a heartbeat,” Behrens said.

Tourism in the mountain could worsen the traffic problems caused by the highway collapse.

“What we are trying to do is avoid having all these cars coming up and then turn around,” Behrens said.

 

Here is a list of statuses

for State Routes from Caltrans:

* SR-243 remains closed from I-10 to Idyllwild for at least two months due to extensive damage and road loss. Ames Construction is the emergency contractor for the $8 million project, which is combined with SR 74 emergency work.

* SR-74 remains closed from Valle Vista at Borco to Mountain Center for at least one month due to road loss and storm damage. Ames Construction is the emergency contractor for the $8 million project which is combined with SR 243 emergency work.

* SR-18 remains closed from Green Valley Lake Road to Big Bear Dam for at least two weeks due to road loss and storm damage. Riverside Construction is the emergency contractor for the $2.5 million project.

* SR-111 is partially open with one lane in each direction on the northbound direction of travel. The southbound SR 111 remains closed for at least one month or longer to repair road loss and storm damage. Granite Construction is the emergency contractor for the $3.5 million project.

* SR-173 from SR 138 to Twin Ranch Road remains closed due to flooding.

Christian Shepherd can be reached at cshepherd@mountain-news.com.

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