Tony Reed
The Del Norte Triplicate

Last Chance Grade remains on the minds of many locals, due to its potential to fail and close U.S. 101. However, south of Eureka, that has happened. A massive slide between the tiny towns of Leggett and Piercy closed both lanes of U.S. 101 Monday morning.

As of Tuesday afternoon, crews had yet to work on it. At about 1:30 p.m., Tuesday Caltrans Spokesman Myles Cochrane said “The slide is still active … very active.”

An aerial photo on the Caltrans District 1 web page showed the scale of the slide which deeply covered both lanes, pushing fencing and K-rail over the nearby embankment.

An update Wednesday said, “We expect the highway to remain closed for at least the next couple of days — any rumors you may hear of one-way traffic control today will be false.”

At 6:30 p.m., Caltrans released the following:

“Due to continuing slide activity, Caltrans cannot yet put a date on reopening U.S. 101 north of Leggett in Mendocino County.

“Our contractor began work today, removing 82 dump truck loads of material and removing a small portion of the rock fall fence, but had to shut down early because the slide became too active to continue safely. They intend to resume tomorrow, working 12-hour long days, 7 days per week, until the highway is reopened. The progress of the work, however, will be dependent on the weather and the continuing movement of the slide. Safety is Caltrans #1 goal for our workers, our contractor’s workers, and the traveling public. We know that the closure is a hardship for many, and we are committed to safely reopening the highway as quickly as we can.”

Mendocino area Caltrans Spokesman Eli Rohl cleared up some confusion that may have been occurring for users who look for information on the Caltrans Quickmap website. The interactive map shows three closures between Piercy and Leggett, when the center closure is the landslide location.

“As for the closures at the north and south ends, we’re stopping traffic a good distance away,” Rohl said, noting that there are no exits to access beyond the closure points.

Last Chance Grade remains open but is reduced to one-way traffic in several places.

Work continues at mile marker 14, where contractors continue to shore up the northbound lane. An estimated date of completion has not been given.

According to an April 11 release, “Caltrans has submitted a request to the California Transportation Commission to adopt an amendment to the 2016 State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP), which would essentially provide us with $5 million to begin conducting environmental studies for seven proposed realignment options at Last Chance Grade.”

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