Highway 1 Landslide is Part of a $1B Problem for California

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The massive landslide south of Big Sur that closed Highway 1 is one dramatic piece of a larger road repair challenge facing California in the wake of this winter’s record rains.

As the dust settles from the landslide, which was a third of a mile wide and 40 feet at its deepest, it’s unclear when Highway 1 will reopen and Caltrans engineers are still determining a plan of attack. Independent experts say the solution may require constructing a sprawling bridge over the troublesome spot or a tunnel deep in the ground beneath it, a prospect that could take years and cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

In April, officials had estimated it would cost more than $860 million to repair the state’s roads, bridges and highways damaged from this winter’s storms. That number is now estimated to be more than $1 billion.

Here’s a breakdown of the costs for major repair jobs across the state:

Northern California: Repair work in District 3 in Northern California is expected to cost the most. The district, which includes Sacramento, Yolo, Yuba and Butte counties, experienced repeated winter floods as multiple rivers were overwhelmed with powerful storms. Repairs are estimated to cost more than $360 million.

L.A. County: In Los Angeles County, emergency and permanent repair costs for all the damage will total more than $55 million, according to a Caltrans preliminary assessment. Nearly half of that cost will go toward one project on Highway 27, also known as Topanga Canyon Boulevard. During a weekend in January, a wave of massive boulders and mud crashed onto two sections of the road about a mile apart, forcing a 3.5-mile closure of the winding pass through the Santa Monica Mountains.

Santa Clara County: In Caltrans District 4 in Santa Clara County, a 200-foot-long section of Highway 35 slid downhill more than 50 feet. A permanent rebuild of the highway and stabilization of the hillside is estimated to cost more than $29.5 million.

Big Sur Bridge: Caltrans faces an equally costly project in Monterey County, where the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge in Big Sur was destabilized after a mudslide earlier this year. Caltrans estimated it will cost at least $26.5 million to replace it.

Even before the wet winter, there were concerns about the grave condition of California’s roads. That prompted a bold plan of attack – the signing of SB 1, the largest road-funding plan in California in more than a quarter century. California motorists will start paying higher fuel taxes on Nov. 1 to provide $5.2 billion annually for road and bridge repairs and expanded mass transit in the state. State officials hope the sight of construction crews on long-neglected highways and roads will compensate for any pain in the pocketbook.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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