The repair work to a collapsed section of Highway 35 in the Santa Cruz Mountains has been a massive undertaking for Caltrans, but there is finally a target date for completion.
In terms of sheer tonnage, the landslide that took out a section of the highway during heavy storms in February is bigger than the more recent slide near Big Sur. The collapse, at Las Cumbres Road near Los Gatos and Saratoga, prompted closure of crucial sections of the road indefinitely, leaving residents in the area only one way in and out via Black Road.
For some, the long, twisting road means being cut off in one direction or another.
"I don't get downtown now more than three times a week, where I used to go every day," homeowner Henry Hardy said. "It's a pain to go down Black Road every day."
Changes are coming soon, Caltrans said.
Crews were at work with heavy equipment on Thursday, dwarfed by the collapsed section. Caltrans says the slide ended up 280 feet long, with more than 2 million yards of dirt, trees and debris. Workers say the old road sat on soil on top of bedrock, creating pockets or "voids."
"Water starts working its way through the voids, and then you have a slide," structure foreman Ethan Cornell said, adding that the drought prevented it from happening previously.
Crews have removed about 65 large trees in order to start carving 30 feet into the mountainside for a new road. They'll set up walls fortified by beams and cables to shore up a 22-foot-wide road and protect it from future slides.
"We're going to be using concrete backfill, base rock, all materials, you know, that are calculated so it doesn't happen again," Cornell said.
CalTrans is still working to finalize plans on the repair project but estimate it will cost around $30 million. The target date for completion is Sept. 30.