Highways between Hemet and Palm Springs that were severely impacted by last week’s storm will remain out of service for the next one to two months while repairs are made, state officials said Tuesday.
According to Caltrans District 8 spokeswoman Terri Kasinga, the most seriously damaged corridor, state Route 243 between Banning and Mountain Center, by way of Idyllwild, will likely remain closed until mid-April, though residents and business owners will continue to have limited access to the two-lane road.
The 30-mile mountain highway sustained major damage in four places during torrential downpours and runoff on Feb. 14. The worst impact was in the area of Lake Fulmor, south of Interstate 10 and just north of Idyllwild and Pine Cove, where the highway completely collapsed.
Kasinga said the corridor will be inaccessible between I-10 and Idyllwild to anyone except public safety officials and repair crews. The southern half of the 243 between Mountain Center and Idyllwild is accessible to residents and business owners exclusively. However, one-way traffic control is in effect along the route, and a detour onto a county road is necessary to bypass one sinkhole, according to Kasinga.
Burnsville, Minnesota-based Ames Construction Inc. was hired Friday under a Caltrans emergency work order to make repairs to the 243, as well as segments of state Route 74, at a cost of $8 million.
Ames was also the contractor hired in August to restore roadway surfaces damaged during the 13,000-acre Cranston Fire near Mountain Center.
A 15-mile segment of Highway 74 will likely be out of service until the latter half of March because of the storm damage and ensuing repairs, according to Kasinga.
Rain and runoff washed out or broke up surfaces all along the stretch. The highway entirely collapsed at the Strawberry Creek crossing, roughly three miles west of Mountain Center. The closure extends from Valle Vista, just east of Hemet, to Mountain Center.
Commuters coming from the west or south, attempting to reach Lake Hemet or continue on to Palm Springs, were advised to use Sage Road from Hemet, or state Route 79 from Temecula, then connect to state Route 371 eastbound, which links to the open half of Highway 74 in Anza.
State Route 111 between Overture Drive and Tramway Way, on the western edge of Palm Springs, fragmented in several places during the storm, according to Caltrans.
Kasinga said the northbound side of the four-lane corridor has been converted to a two-lane thoroughfare running in both directions. However, the southbound side of the highway will be out of service for the next month, she said.
Watsonville-based Granite Construction Inc. has been hired at a cost of $3.5 million to fix the compromised surfaces.
Kasinga said visits to the Idyllwild, Mountain Center and Lake Hemet areas in the San Bernardino National Forest for recreational activity of any kind were not advised for the duration of the repair activity.
More information about the closures is available at www.dot.ca.gov/d8/index.html .
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