By Caltrans

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) continues work on the third emergency project to make repairs to fire and storm-damaged highways 74 and 243 (SR 74 and SR 243). Both routes were impacted by an arson fire in July 2018, debris flows in August 2018, and subsequently, major storm damage one year ago on Feb. 14, 2019.

Caltrans has completed two of three emergency projects to rebuild and restore highways 74 and 243 to the Idyllwild and Mountain Center communities. The first Director’s Order for $6.5 million made fire damage repairs and reopened both routes to the public. 

The second Director’s Order for $30 million was initiated in August 2019 due to post-fire debris flows. This emergency project is currently in construction. 

The third Director’s Order for approximately $30 million was initiated after the destruction of the Feb. 14, 2019 storm and made repairs to highways 74 and 243 and was completed in late 2019.

The current Director’s Order is repairing and replacing drainage systems, erosion control, reinforcing embankments, cleaning basins, rock scaling, removing dead and burned trees, excavating slopes, replacing pavement and removing settlement. The work is taking place on Highway 74 from the Cranston Station to Lake Hemet and on Highway 243 from Highway 74 to Marian View Drive.

The project workdays are Monday through Friday, except holidays and inclement weather days, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Due to the nature of the ongoing work to replace culverts and drainage systems, the contractor requires closures on Highway 74 with pilot vehicle traffic control. 

The pilot vehicle is taking vehicles up and down Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet during the work hours with thirty (30) minute traffic holds. 

Unfortunately, the traffic holds are causing delays for motorists, but the work window is required by the contractor to accomplish the necessary daily work. Traffic holds for less than 30 minutes does not allow the contractor enough time to complete work.

Caltrans Traffic Management Center (TMC) has activated Changeable Message Signs (CMS) on surrounding freeways to alert motorists to use alternate routes.

Caltrans hopes to complete the last emergency project, which is currently under construction, by Labor Day 2020. Caltrans understands the impacts to the communities and businesses affected by the damage to the routes and is working hard to finish the project. We want to remind the traveling public that the emergency funding for these projects will upgrade and rebuild a good portion of highways 74 and 243 to be more resilient in the future.

Know before you go! To stay on top of roadwork in the Inland Empire go to Caltrans District 8 and sign up for commuter alerts. Follow us for the latest information on Facebook and Twitter. To assist in planning your commute, view live traffic conditions using QuickMap and planned lane closures. 

For those with sensory disabilities requiring alternate formats (i.e. Braille, large print, sign language interpreter, etc.) and those needing information in a language other than English, please contact Caltrans Public Affairs at 909-383-4631 or TTY 711 by Feb. 29.