Drivers who spent hours this week trapped in gridlock after a mudslide wreaked havoc on Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains received some good news on Saturday morning.
Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol decided to reopen one lane in both directions near Scotts Valley.
“The whole mountain community has been affected,” said Amy Goldsbury who lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains. “My child attends school in Los Gatos and it takes hours to get him. We’ve had slides, trees down, power out. It’s been a lot.”
On Friday, the busy highway was closed from Scotts Valley to the Santa Clara County line. While personnel from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health approved work to continue on the mudslide cleanup, a Caltrans engineer said that it was too unsafe to work on the unstable hill. Southbound lanes were reopened during the evening commute.
Caltrans crews are even now scrambling to survey roads damaged in this past week's deluge. And Cal-OSHA still has work to before it can open the remaining lanes on Highway 17. Namely, it has to investigate an accident on Thursday that led to the death of 54-year-old Robert Gill from Los Banos. He was killed when a truck doing repair work backed into him, also injuring another Graniterock worker.
Further north, Highway 35, known as Skyline Boulevard, has a 200-foot-wide chasm that broke loose Friday afternoon, north of Bear Creek Road.
The slide drew dozens of people who walked a mile and a half from the roadblock just to see it – often passed by Caltrans and PG&E crews, who are working around the clock.
"They’re taking bulldozers and dump trucks to get everything fixed as quickly as possible. Thank you so much!” saud Virginia Becker, a homeowner from Las Cumbres Road.