Caltrans personnel are examining, but aren’t yet alarmed about a retaining wall failure on U.S. 101 at Last Chance Grade that caused the shoulder and part of the southbound lane near mile marker 14.42 to collapse.
The failure occurred sometime around 10 p.m. Monday and was followed by an online alert from Caltrans.
“The highway lost another 10 feet of width and is down to 18 feet for the one lane of traffic,” the alert said. “Caltrans staff believe the highway is still safe and the highway remains open at this time.”
The drivable area of the southbound lane has not fully collapsed but a bluffside pullout has almost completely fallen away. A section of the southbound lane’s edge, about four feet across, has fallen away, taking an “End Road Work” sign with it.
Caltrans spokesman Myles Cochrane said Tuesday several experts are on location assessing the damage.
“We have crews working around the clock there and we have plans to shore it up,” said Cochrane. “We have a couple ways to assess the area. We have real time monitoring equipment there and we are watching it 24-7.”
Cochrane said that any further loss of the roadway will likely result in closure until it can be repaired.
Cochrane said one idea being discussed is to use piles left over from the Willits Bypass Project.
“Hopefully, they can drive the piles in and dig into the hill a little bit to make another lane and free it up to two-way traffic,” he said.
Noting that motorists would have to take California 299 to bypass the area in the event of a full closure, Cochrane noted that highway has some areas experiencing weather damage as well.
He said that should a section of U.S. 101 fail, Caltrans will work to create a detour around that area as quickly as possible.
“We do have a priority to keep it open as long as possible,” Cochrane said, “but if we have to close it, we will.”
A special meeting of emergency providers is scheduled Thursday to discuss operation plans in the event the road fails. Del Norte Office of Emergency Services Manager Cindy Henderson said the meeting will be used to ensure that all emergency personnel are “on the same page” and are ready to react.
The meeting is not open to the public.
The topic of Last Chance Grade has come up several times this winter, most often at the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors meetings and has been a longstanding concern for many local residents.
“On U.S. Highway 101 at Last Chance Grade south of Crescent City in Del Norte County motorists should anticipate one-way traffic control via temporary traffic signal with 10 to 20 minute delays at all hours,” a Caltrans release said Wednesday. “Delay lengths are subject to change and Caltrans District 1 will update the public when there is a new schedule.”
Motorists can find up to date information regarding the status of the location by calling 1-800-GAS-ROAD, using Quickmap online, or by checking the “Caltrans District 1” Facebook page.