MADERA COUNTY – Highway 41 between Road 200 and Highway 145 has been reopened after a rock slide two days ago closed the road in both directions.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Mar. 6, geologists were called in to assess the stability of the steep rock walls along the roadway after about 10 cubic yards of debris slid into the northbound lane.
Caltrans geologist Joseph Klamecki arrived at Rocky Cut from Sacramento yesterday afternoon to begin assessing the situation to determine what work would be needed to ensure the safety of the public.
Klamecki determined more extensive work needed to be done to remove rock on the slope to make it safe, and requested a long reach excavator and the assistance of the hand scaling team.
On Friday morning, at 7 a.m., Caltrans geologist Doug Cook arrived with his hand scaling team, fresh off another rock slide that had closed Highway 178 in Kern Canyon.
In order to clean up the loose debris on the rock slope the crew rappelled on ropes and used rock bars, shovels and ice axes to push the debris down onto the road, where a front end loader scooped it up for removal. Besides the initial rock slide of about 10 cubic yards, Klamecki says another 15 cubic yards of rock was removed today. No blasting was done.
“With all of these storm events this winter, individual Districts have been overwhelmed,” says geologist Cook. “On arrival, we evaluate the slope and determine what can stay and what cannot, and why, and do we go with mass excavation or deal with the issue at hand. Our job here was to restore the rock face to its previous condition.”
The slope is now static, Cook says, but with all the fractures, some smaller rocks may slip off in the near future.
Cook adds that there is always the potential for another slide, especially considering the area may be in line for another six to eight weeks of rain.
Caltrans took advantage of the road closure to perform other jobs. For the last two days there has been an inmate crew picking up trash throughout the closure area. Crews have also removed six hazard trees near the roadway and filled numerous potholes.
Once the site was clear of personnel, Caltrans ran a sweeper through the area prior to reopening, to ensure that no additional debris remained on the roadway.
Caltrans crews have been very busy this winter, and now that the work on Highway 41 in Madera County is complete, the team will next head out to evaluate another problem area, not yet a slide, on Highway 190 in the Porterville area.