By Mary-Justine Lanyon
The area of Highway 189 as it approaches Lake Gregory Drive is well known – and somewhat terrifying – to local motorists as it narrows in to barely allow two vehicles to pass safely.
Caltrans Public Information Officer Emily Leinen and Project Manager Ahmed Ghonim presented a webinar on a proposed project to repair the eroding slope and widen the road in that area.
Installing wire mesh, Ghonim said, will help prevent future erosion.
As the slope has eroded, it has caused the guardrail to lean back. Ghonim said they had done some temporary repairs to the guardrail “but we still have erosion all along the slope.”
He showed photos of the existing slopes to the webinar participants. As it increases, he noted, “it could impact operation on Highway 189.”
Ghonim presented two repair options that Caltrans had considered for the project, which should begin in February 2023.
Option A would construct a sidehill viaduct in two stages while keeping one lane of Highway 189 open to traffic. By driving piles into the existing roadway, Caltrans would construct a new deck, widening the road to provide two 11-foot lanes and a four-foot shoulder.
Caltrans, however, rejected Option A due to safety concerns and right-of-way impacts to adjacent property owners.
The signal for the one-way traffic would be very long – about a quarter mile. There is a series of driveways leading off Highway 189 in that section. The owners, Ghonim said, would have to install independent signals at each one. There would be, he noted, six separate signals.
The fear, Ghonim said, is that there was a potential for head-on and rear-end collisions. In addition, with that many signals, the delay for motorists would be significant. And the road would be even narrower than it is now.
So that brought Caltrans to Option B. Under this option, Highway 189 would be closed in the construction zone and traffic would be detoured onto Highway 18. The detour would be six miles long and would actually save a minute in time for Blue Jay and Lake Arrowhead drivers. Residents who live next to the detour may experience a delay of up to 12 minutes.
One of the biggest advantages of Option B is the timeframe. Option A could take up to two years to complete. Construction, Ghonim said, cannot continue during snow. Option B would reduce the construction period from 215 days to 138 days and reduce the construction cost by approximately $1.9 million.
Both options, Ghonim said, will provide 11-foot lanes and the shoulder when completed.