Travel along highways 74 and 243 has increased since stay-at-home restrictions have loosened up. However, expect delays traveling both highways, up to 20-30 minutes. 

“Culvert work continues on State Route 74 and State Route 243,” wrote Philip Havins, Caltrans public information officer for maintenance, in an email last week. “The tentative completion date is mid-October 2020. Although, that timeframe is dependent on weather and any other issues that may arise.”

The Town Crier previously reported in February, “The resident engineer advises that the emergency culvert replacement project will continue till September 2020,” wrote Caltrans Public Information Officer Joy M. Schneider. “The resident engineer has directed the contractor to keep the delay below 30 minutes. If readers have questions or concerns, they can contact public affairs at 909-383-4631.”

“The timeframe was amended from Labor Day weekend to mid-October in early June,” wrote Havins on the reason for the extended timeline. “As with anything construction-related, times are fluid and may change. Additionally, the work being performed on these culverts is painstaking and requires the project team to execute their respective tasks with very little margin of error. “

Highways 74 — from Mountain Center to Hemet — and 243 — from Pine Cove to Banning — washed out as a result of the torrential rains on Feb. 14, 2019, causing full closures on both highways.

On April 20, Caltrans reopened Highway 74 from Mountain Center to Hemet giving commuters some relief. However, the hours were limited and vehicles were escorted by pilot car. 

On Aug. 30, Caltrans allowed commuters 24-hour access with the pilot car and Highway 74 fully reopened Oct. 3 with flagging operations only. 

There was a full closure on Highway 243 from Feb. 14 to Nov. 1.

Commuters wait for a pilot car at Highway 74 and McCall Park Road on Monday, July 27. Traffic control is handled by Statewide Safety Systems. Photos by Jenny Kirchner