It may be summer before state Routes 74 and 243 completely reopen to the general public due to the extensive repair work required to restore the corridors, both of which were severely damaged during a mid-February storm event, Caltrans announced Tuesday.
“There are over 25 locations on Route 243 with damage, including two locations with complete road loss,” according to a Caltrans statement. “Route 74 has over 40 locations that will require repairs. At this time, Caltrans is estimating at least four months before public access or reopening of both highways can take place.”
Even as crews make progress fixing one spot, other deficiencies are found elsewhere that have to be addressed, according to the state transportation agency.
“Caltrans is making every effort to expedite repairs and restore the routes to the community, businesses, lodging industry and tourism,” according to the statement. “The safety of the traveling public remains a concern on both routes.”
The worst of the damage was in the area of Lake Fulmor, between Pine Cove and Banning, where Highway 243 completely collapsed and disappeared amid torrential downpours and mud flows on Feb . 14.
Another segment of the two-lane, 30-mile corridor, which is the primary north-south artery through the southern half of the San Bernardino National Forest, also gave way south of Idyllwild.
The entire highway is out of service between Interstate 10 and Idyllwild, while the southern half between Mountain Center and Idyllwild is accessible to residents and business owners.
One-way traffic control is in effect along the lower part of the route, and a detour onto a county road is necessary to bypass one sinkhole, according to Caltrans District 8 spokeswoman Terri Kasinga.
A 15-mile segment of Highway 74 is out of service because of the storm damage, which caused washouts and sinkholes.
A portion of the highway at the Strawberry Creek crossing, roughly three miles west of Mountain Center, collapsed after it was compromised by runoff.
The highway is closed from Valle Vista, just east of Hemet, to Mountain Center.
Burnsville, Minnesota-based Ames Construction Inc. was hired last month under a Caltrans emergency work order to make repairs to the 243, as well as the busted 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.
Commuters coming from the west or south, attempting to reach Lake Hemet or continue on to Palm Springs, are 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.
More information about the closures is available at www.dot.ca.gov/d8/index.html .
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