Caltrans projects: Fuming and appreciating
The Camp Fire was snuffed by a rainstorm on Thanksgiving Day — finally. Since then, getting back and forth to Chico, Oroville or other flatland destinations has been an adventure. The sign “Road Work Ahead” could mean anything from a 10-minute to 30-minute wait and there were lots of ’em. Initially, there were teams of workers with chainsaws falling burnt timber.
Then that material had to be limbed, chipped and hauled off. Some logs still had enough moisture to be made into lumber, the rest were disposed of by however the contractor decided. In the process of removing trees, rocks were subjected to the usual forces of gravity falling from the steep cliffs onto the road. They had to be removed.
Caltrans also had to replace a number of culverts that were clogged or destroyed by fire debris. Everything considered the road was a mess; we had a very wet winter that added even more stuff to the problem and another hour was added to the journey downriver. But the road remained open.
I had a number of doctor appointments in Chico and have the patience of a kid at Christmas. My take on all these delays only increased my blood pressure: Why can’t they do it this way; they could have let us go 10 minutes ago; that idiot isn’t even trying to move with speed; they got 5 miles of road blocked off to work on a hundred feet.
We all know what kind of roads we drive on — narrow and windy. It is prone to rock fall, landslide, flooding, ice, snow and wind. I went to cover a small slide a few years ago and lost my breath from the cold when I got out of the car. Yet the Caltrans crews were out in it keeping it open for weuns of no patience.
There is good news. The bridge upgrade at the Spring Garden Overhead is completed and the netting project on the steep, naked banks between the Pulga Bridge and Concow is done. There are still crews working in that area and will be through the end of summer, but the major work is completed.
There is a fish ladder at Rush Creek Road and Highway 70 where one-lane controlled traffic exists when equipment and material has to be moved across the road. That will be completed at season’s end. Where the kayak parking lot is at the Rock Creek Dam there is one-lane traffic and/or a stop light 24/7 for construction to moderate the dangerous and steep curve in the road there.
This project is also due to be completed by season’s end. Many of these projects are being done now because of the flooding in 2017 when they were put off to repair that damage. Then, of course, there was the worst wildfire in California history. The stop light at Belden for the Yellow Creek Bridge replacement is not due to be removed until the end of the 2020 season.
For those of us heading east toward Highway 395, the road of eternal wind, there is a pavement rehabilitation project from Chilcoot to Hallelujah Junction. Pavement rehabilitation is just a fancy term for repaving. Its the usual rip-it-up, lay-it-down one-lane mess that all paving projects are. It is due for completion in November of this year.
Of course all these projects are merely things that are going on now. There ain’t no tellin’ when a 100 ton rock, or a 200 foot piece of dirt is gonna plop down on the road and make another mess. Caltrans will be there to clean it up and I will still be fuming over the delay.
Some of us just don’t learn.