A damaged stretch of state Route 74 between Hemet and Mountain Center will be available to motorists 18 hours a day for all of Memorial Day weekend in an effort accommodate holiday travel, according to Caltrans.
The agency announced that the 15-mile segment will be accessible from 6 a.m. to midnight on Saturday, May 25, Sunday, May 26, and Monday, May 27.
Caltrans spokesman Shane Massoud said pilot drivers will be guiding motorists in both directions until clear of all construction zones on the two-lane corridor.
The speed limit for escorted vehicles is 25 mph.
“Sections of the highway have uneven, unpaved roadbed with narrow passage,” Massoud said. “Dirt, sand, rock and mud will exist on Route 74. Low profile vehicles are not recommended. Motorists will not be permitted to pass other vehicles during the escort.”
As on Easter weekend, Caltrans is attempting to facilitate increased travel along the damaged east-west artery to spare drivers long detours.
On Tuesday, May 28, the previously established limited commute times will once again be in force, according to Massoud. That means guided access will be available from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. in the first half of the day, and 6 p.m. to midnight for the latter half. Outside of those commute blocks, the 15- mile segment will be closed, and motorists will have to use detours through Lake Hemet and Anza.
Massoud said open, unrestricted access to the 74 is not likely until mid-summer. There remain at least 10 places on the highway where extensive repairs are underway.
The California Highway Patrol closed the 15-mile segment on the night of Feb. 14, after downpours caused road surfaces to buckle inward, leaving numerous breaks and major sinkholes. The worst damage was at the Strawberry Creek crossing, about three miles west of Mountain Center.
Burnsville, Minnesota-based Ames Construction Inc. was hired — at a cost of nearly $10 million — under a Caltrans emergency work order to repair the pitted portions of Highway 74, as well as Highway 243 between Banning and Mountain Center.
More than two dozen locations on the 243 were damaged, while over 40 spots along Highway 74 sustained damage in the storm.
The stretch of Route 243 between Idyllwild and Banning remains entirely shut down.