Caltrans has already spent millions on State Route 243 repairs after the Valentine’s Day flood but with the first rain storm of the season, the highway’s integrity is being brought into question again.
Drivers at a gas station in Banning said at this point, they are just “flat out avoiding the inconsistent highway.”
SR-243 closed down for about nine months after the Valentine’s Day flood and not long after its reopening this month, another closure happened this week.
Heavy rain washed out the dirt underneath a section of the road which was quickly remedied with a berm of dirt. The repairs shut down the highway at one point, then drivers were forced into one lane.
Caltrans has already spent nearly $30 million in emergency repairs on both 243 and Highway 74 along with other multi million dollar projects but this recent washout wasn’t a part of any of those projects. Caltrans officials said it could just as easily happen again.
“As long as we continue to see rain events like this, we’re going to continue to see this type of slope failure throughout our district until we can get those systems upgraded,” Terri Kasinga, a Caltrans District 8 spokesperson, said.
The drainage and culvert systems are very old, she said. They date back to the early 1900’s and Kasinga said it’s no surprise they’re starting to fail.
“We’re just going to have to address each of them one at a time or we’re going to have to go up with another emergency project if we have failure that needs to be fixed or another complete road failure,” Kasinga said.
This is causing a continued inconvenience for locals and travelers.
“Now that’s it’s snowy season we like to take our family up there to go play in the snow, with it being closed it’s hard,” Venus Vongsikhay, a family member of mountain residents, said.
Caltrans said they monitor these storms with the National Weather Service but even with that they still aren’t sure where the highway could be affected. When the storm comes, Caltrans stays on “high alert.”