Tue. Mar 5th, 2024

By Samuel Strait, Reporter at Large – July 8, 2021

We were told several days ago that the work schedule at Last Chance
Grade would change on July 6th to speed up the “emergency repairs”,
likely cutting off a couple of months to the time line of making the
Highway south less of an adventure.  So now travelers are faced with
four hour closures, 8am to noon and 3pm to 7pm during the week except on
Friday when the 3pm to 7pm closure is suspended.  All other times expect
thirty minute delays.  While we are told that this would allow crews
longer periods of work on the grade and thereby allow the work to be
completed much quicker, it comes at an awkward time of the year when
traffic is at its peak.  Not only is local traffic and delivery service
greatly effected, but the lively hood of tourism will also suffer.

It is not as if the problems are in any way recent.  CalTrans has
reported issues with the road for decades, closures for varying length
seemed to have increased dramatically over the last ten years, and yet
nothing has been particularly successful despite millions of dollars
being expended.  The hillside has not changed its composition nor its
penchant for sliding into the Pacific Ocean.  Economic loss continue to
plague this community as a result.  The response by the local
Transportation Commission is that the current work may cut a year off
the development of a more permanent solution.  Guess that should tell
which of the two remaining choices CalTrans has elected to pursue.

Inspite of all the waffling by the powers to be and CalTrans, the
current right of way at Last Chance Grade will likely defy any attempt
to become a well trained hillside and remain stable.  This is a major
problem that is unlikely to change no matter what CalTrans magic is
applied to the hillside.  The State is unlikely to pony up a couple
billion dollars, most assuredly much more by the time construction is
started, for a tunnel.  So when are the local grand vizier’s going to
get off the dime and start raising a ruckus with Sacramento?  It is bad
enough that year after year locals cannot count on the road to be
anything but a giant headache.  What about this year has not someone
some where realized that the one thing government might be inclined to
assist local citizenry in accomplishing is a safe and secure road south
out of the County?   Maybe it is too much to ask?

It should be clear long ago that recycling old ideas is not a recipe for
success and it is time to look for other options with bypassing Last
Chance Grade that might actually work.  It may break hearts at
Environmentalville, but something needs to be done about this moribund
project before the hillside vanishes into the Ocean taking the road with
it.  Four hour closures for the contractor to work might make him happy
but does little for those that just want to get somewhere other than
sitting in traffic on an unstable hillside.

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