MOUNTAIN AREA — Delays on Highway 41 around the Broken Bit in Coarsegold this morning had drivers waiting up to an hour, reportedly, for tree work in the area. We checked in with Caltrans spokesman Cory Burkarth who gave us the answers commuters may be looking for regarding the massive hazard tree removal project that’s expected to continue for quite some time.
Why is the project now between Coarsegold and Oakhurst?
Burkarth explains that the recent snow and rain forced crews to shut down and move out of the Fish Camp area. The crew is able to work in rain and snow quite often, but the recent storm saturated the soil so badly that the ground wasn’t safe enough to work on. In addition, icy conditions affecting the roadway would have made traffic control extremely difficult for motorists, so Caltrans made the decision to pull out from Fish Camp and continue working where it was safer for everybody.
How long will the contractor be working in this area?
Crews will be working in this area Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. for the next four to six weeks, Burkarth continues. The contractor will be working on State Route 41 from Coarsegold up towards Oakhurst, and we’re hoping the weather and ground conditions will allow us to return to Fish Camp once we wrap up this portion of the project.
On this morning’s traffic backup and future traffic control plans?
Burkarth goes on to say there was an issue this morning where there was a heavier than expected traffic backup, and that caused some motorists to sit in more than one closure. Caltrans says their contractor is confident that they’ve since resolved those issues and we expect traffic control to run just as smoothly as it did up in the Fish Camp area.
There’s more traffic between Coarsegold and Oakhurst than there is up in Fish Camp, Burkarth notes, so crews will only be stopping traffic for 10-15 minutes at a time during this phase of the project, and the contractor is confident that the majority of those closures will be closer to 10-minutes at a time. A 10-15 stoppage could mean some motorists will sit in traffic for up to 30-minutes, depending on traffic volume, and while Burkarth says Caltrans regrets the inconvenience that is going to cause, it’s unavoidable on a project like this.
This article was edited on Jan. 11, 2017 at 2:30 p.m. to reflect the fact that one-way traffic control was not in place this morning. When trees are dropped in the hazard tree removal process, traffic is stopped for a limited time in both directions to accommodate the action.