The repair of Highway 243 north of Pine Cove will take time to complete. The major work will be restoring the highway where it collapsed and severed in two places. Shown here is the work to reconnect the highway at Bay Tree Springs, the southern separation.
Photo by JP Crumrine

The damage to highways 74 and 243 is more extensive than originally thought. Engineers have done a more thorough assessment of the damage and the current estimate for full repair and opening of the roads is four months, according to Terri Kasinga, chief, Public and Media Affairs, Caltrans District 8.

Ames Construction, the Caltrans contractor, is not only repairing the damage to Highway 74, where it collapsed and was severed, but is repairing and protecting the highway in several more locations.

The fast-moving runoff eroded the edge of the highway in many places. Work is being done to restore Highway 74 about 0.75 miles west of Mountain Center, before any of the passing lanes.

A portion of Highway 74 just west of the Cranston Ranger Station and the Turkey Farm was severed after the Feb. 14, torrential rains. In order to restore the road, the base, which was severely eroded by runoff, has to be rebuilt.
Photo by JP Crumrine
Besides repairing the damaged highway, Caltrans engineers identified several locations where the hillside, or wall of the mountain, posed future danger for rockslides or collapse. Here is work being done to reduce this future risk by scaling the hillside to reduce its steepness.
Photo by JP Crumrine

“There are over 25 locations on SR 243 with damage including two locations with complete road loss,” a Tuesday press release from Caltrans explains. “SR 74 has over 40 locations that will require repairs. At this time, Caltrans is estimating at least four (4) months before public access or reopening of both SR 74 or 243 can take place. Reopening will be contingent upon delays due to weather or other unforeseen damages or circumstances. There are limited lane widths on SR 74, however in the event of an emergency that would require community evacuation, Caltrans, in coordination with the California Highway Patrol (CHP), Riverside County Sheriff and Emergency Management, will make arrangements for evacuation if it becomes necessary between Mountain Center and Valle Vista.”

Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington toured the highway last week and said, “I learned a lot about highway construction and why the damage occurred. And also about the gap between realistic expectations and what the community expects them to do.” Washington also emphasized that Caltrans not only has to repair the damaged road, but must rebuild the support base in order to prevent future damage.

Water flowing from Bay Tree Springs, which had been routed under Highway 243 until it collapsed, had to be diverted so that the road repair could be done.
Photo by JP Crumrine
The fast-moving runoff eroded the edge of the highway in many places. Here, work is being done to restore Highway 74 about 0.75 miles west of Mountain Center, before any of the passing lanes.
Photo by JP Crumrine

Besides repair, Caltrans engineers identified several locations where the hillside, or wall of the mountain, posed future danger for rockslides or collapse.

These photos depict the work being done to reduce this future risk by scaling the hillside to reduce its steepness.

The Mountain Disaster Preparedness group has invited Cal Trans spokespeople to Idyllwild Monday, March 18. Starting at 6 p.m., the community meeting will be at the Idyllwild School Gymnasium.

Topics will discuss the damages to highways 74 and 243, the future of repairs and when an opening might occur. 

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