Friday, April 21, 2017

101 Closed Until at Least Next Week; Rain Forecast to Return

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 12:27 PM

click to enlarge The slide north of Leggett. - COURTESY OF CALTRANS
  • Courtesy of Caltrans
  • The slide north of Leggett.
Caltrans is estimating a possible reopening of U.S. Highway 101 sometime mid-to-late next week and is warning travelers to expect detours of up to seven hours until the roadway can be safely reopened.

The initial slide that closed down both lanes north of Leggett on April 16 was followed a few days later by another that dumped as much — if not more material — than the first one, according to Caltrans. Special equipment is being airlifted into the area next week.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service is forecasting another storm system to move into the area on Monday and Tuesday with 1 to 3 inches of rain expected in Del Norte and Humboldt counties and a half-inch to 1 inch of rain in Mendocino County.

Caltrans, the county and the California Highway Patrol have issued warnings to drivers who might try to traverse local Southern Humboldt roads to get around the Leggett closure, saying there would be checkpoints at Bell Springs Road, which is only open to local necessary and essential traffic.

One of the suggested alternatives — State Route 299 — experienced its own closure today after a big rig overturned around 6:30 a.m. There were no injuries. The road reopened to one-way, controlled traffic by 11 a.m. and is expected to be fully open by early this afternoon, according to the CHP.

Friday morning update from Caltrans:
Work is progressing at both ends of the slide north of Leggett in Mendocino County this morning. We're evaluating whether the north end of the slide is stable enough to safely begin night work, which will allow our contractor to work around the clock to reopen the highway.

Additional specialized equipment will be airlifted in next week to assist in removing debris from the roadway.

At this time, our best estimates point to a reopening of U.S. Highway 101 to one-way traffic control sometime mid-to-late next week.

The highway will not be reopened this weekend, and there are no local detours available. Travel plans should include detouring over onto Interstate 5 via Routes 20, 36, or 299 to loop back towards U.S. 101 on the other side of the closure. Motorists should anticipate these detours to take upwards of 7 hours.

Release from the county of Humboldt:
On Sunday, April 16th, a rock slide six miles north of Leggett in northern Mendocino County forced the closure of Highway 101. The California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) has not provided an update on when Highway 101 may re-open, but at this time it is estimated to remain closed through the weekend.

Several local roads have been utilized as detours around the slide and the heavy traffic and wet weather have caused rapid deterioration in the road conditions, multiple traffic accidents, and stuck vehicles. This is a reminder to the traveling public that Bell Springs Road is not an alternate route for the Highway 101 closure between Piercy and Leggett. Bell Springs Road is closed to through traffic, and only open to local necessary and essential traffic. Law enforcement officials will request proof/explanation of your need to be in the area (i.e. driver’s license, bill with address, work order for the area, etc.)

“I understand this is a frustrating situation, but we must act in the interest of ‘safety first,’” said Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennel. “I have seen numerous postings on social media from individuals who are not familiar enough with Bell Springs Road to travel it safely, adding to the danger of this rural road. In addition, I know locals are feeling the impact of the increased traffic on an already compromised rural road. We ask for your patience and understanding during this time, and remind you to travel safely.”

In addition, the following roads are not alternate routes for the Highway 101 closure and could be closed to through traffic if necessary to maintain functionality for essential services to local residents: Usal Road (Whitethorn area), Briceland Thorn Road (Whitethorn area), Mina Road (Covelo), Zenia Bluff Road (Covelo), or Hoagland Road (Covelo).

Until Highway 101 is sufficiently cleared, officials on scene will make the final decision regarding who may travel on Bell Springs Road. The current recommended alternative route is Highway 36, Highway 299, Highway 20, and Interstate 5 to avoid the closure. Please check with CalTrans for additional updates or alternate routes. Road Conditions: (www.dot.ca.gov) or 1-800-427-7623 (ROAD).

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Kimberly Wear

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Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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