Highway 50 expected to open soon | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Highway 50 expected to open soon

Sally J. Taylor

A handful of officials stood near the top of the scar on Tuesday where more than 300,000 cubic yards of rock and soil slid on Jan. 24. The massive slide buried U.S. Highway 50 before crashing into vacation homes across the American River.

From the vantage point above the repair work, officials from the California Department of Transportation explained to media and business representatives the ongoing repairs that have required the highway to be closed part time since Labor Day and delays through the summer.

On Oct. 24, the closure periods are expected to end. Though Frehner Construction Company, Inc. will continue repair work under the Caltrans contract, the highway will be open without delays.

Work above and below the highway has included cutting back the slope above to reduce the slide hazard, installing horizontal drains and 36 inch culverts to improve drainage and prevent soil saturation and adding boulders or retaining walls to armor the riverside embankment.

The entire project, including the emergency repairs in January and February, has cost $25 million.

From the top of the Mill Creek Slide scar, officials pointed out the new system of finger-like drains that redirect the runoff, which continues at the rate of 45 gallons per minute, according to Caltrans Resident Engineer Luis Rivas.

“We direct the water off the slope into the ravine so it doesn’t get the slope saturated,” he said.

Crews have also dug “keys” into the slope: bench-like terraces that are back filled with stickier clay at a gentler slope. Straw waddles cross the slope to slow the remaining runoff.

Hydroseed, a blend of fast growing seeds and soil stabilizers including pine needles, is being sprayed on bare slope to secure the soil for winter.

Other unstable slopes above the highway are receiving similar treatment.

The goal of the massive construction project is to not only repair the highway but to make it more dependable when it opens.

That’s good news for Craig Tackett, who lives in Cameron Park and works at the El Dorado County Jail in South Lake Tahoe.

“I don’t really mind the drive,” he said of the Highway 50 commute while he waited for a Caltrans pilot car to take him and other local traffic through the construction zone. “I mind the drive when I have to go around (on Mormon Emigrant Trail).”

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