By Douglas W. Motley
Highway 18 between San Bernardino and Crestline is still in the midst of being repaired following the washout that occurred last Christmas Eve.
Caltrans was able to get the road repaired enough to reopen on January 20 after almost a month of detours due to the closure. However, there are many additional repairs to make the highway secure and ensure that this type of road failure doesn’t occur elsewhere on the 55-year-old highway that implemented numerous new techniques when being built in the 1960s.
According to Caltrans Public Information Officer Emily Leinen, the state road agency plans to use single-lane closures to enable workers to safely perform most of the additional work. They will pilot motorists safely through construction areas only when it is too dangerous for autos to be in the area of some of the work.
As an example, last week there was the danger that an excavator that was precariously working on an uphill slope could have possibly fallen on passing vehicles. This piloting was chosen instead of a total road closure, and Caltrans officials regret the delays caused by piloting.
The one-day, 24-hour project was extended into three days because they hit snags in the repair and ran out of concrete, while working on a culvert at the 16.36-mile marker. Caltrans has future similar culvert projects planned for the 23- and 25-mile marker culverts as well. However, because of the hillside locations of those culverts, they should be able to be repaired by just single-lane closures.
Commuters should be expecting lane closures all summer long as additional repairs will be made. They plan to inspect and conduct erosion control projects on every culvert between Highway 138 and 48th Street in San Bernardino, prior to next winter’s storms. They are also installing large drainpipes down hillsides to direct the rainwater away from road edges during future storms to reduce erosion.
Leinen told The Alpine Mountaineer on March 25 that Highway 18 was considered an engineering marvel when built, with the many cantilever bridges, enabling the four-lane highway to be built up the steep, walled canyon. It was reportedly the subject of numerous international engineering and road-building magazines and was used as an example for the construction of highways through mountainous areas, worldwide. It was not one of those so-called engineering marvel spots that was washed out during the December storm.
Caltrans is continuing to do preventative work on the roadway and repairing culverts on this section of highway to drain storm runoff from downpours away from the road surface in order to avoid a repeat of last December’s road washout. In addition to repairing culverts, they are correcting drainage by stabilizing slopes and installing pipes to redirect stormwater down several of the slopes to reduce erosion of the hillside.
Caltrans always posts construction projects and lane closures which require pilot cars on their Caltrans District 8 website: https://dot.ca.gov/caltrans-near-me/district-8.