Drivers heading back and forth through the Grapevine will now have to deal with another potential delay after what a Caltrans official Thursday described as a “historic amount of rainfall” created a landslide that collapsed the shoulder on the southbound lanes of Interstate 5.
A stretch of the two right-most lanes on I-5, north of Templin Highway, will remain closed while the repairs are underway, according to Mike Comeaux, spokesman for the California Department of Transportation.
It was too early to say when the lanes could be opened, but workers have been monitoring the area between the Whitaker Brake Check and Templin — which is about 17 miles north of Santa Clarita — around the clock for more than a week, he added.
An educated guess from a Caltrans official familiar with this type of project suggested that it could take “months.”
“On March 21, Caltrans first observed the landslide below the southbound lanes, and it enlarged over the next several days,” Comeaux said in a phone interview Thursday. The Caltrans website locates the closure from about 2 miles north of Templin Highway to about 5 miles north.
“For several days now, we’ve had a contractor prepared and who even began to mobilize additional equipment and crews, and there’s also a subcontractor on scene and our geotechnical engineers are saying right on top of this,” he added. “What we are going to do is place shoring, which is vertical posts or beams, through the roadway down in through the soil to the bedrock …. The crews are exploring how best to do this drilling.”
Part of the challenge and the delay in presenting a timeline, he said, was that while the slope created by the rainfall is naturally taking any future rains away from the freeway where it can drain off the hillside, the slope is not safe enough for crews to lay down sheets of plastic often seen at the sites of such excavations to protect it from further rain, due to the current instability of the soil.
“We are determined to get some shoring in place just as quickly and as safely as we can do that,” Comeaux said. “We are anticipating that within the next few days we will know exactly when this work will be done.”
He also added that, at least temporarily, while the drilling is done, there could be additional, temporary closures beyond the two lanes while that work is being done.
He advised motorists traveling the route to check the Caltrans QuickMap site at Quickmap.dot.ca.gov before their commute, allowing more time for their travel on that route and making sure that they’re especially alert traveling that portion of the road due to the presence of workers in the area.
California Highway Patrol Officer Josh Greengard said there were K-rails, or concrete barriers, in the area near the collapsed shoulder, confirming the “establishment of a long-term closure” of the southbound Nos. 3 and 4 lanes (right-most).
He also warned drivers to be cautious of the work while heading through the area. No injuries have been reported as a result of the landslide, he said.
Comeaux added Thursday the transportation agency has emergency funding from the state immediately available to address the emergent repairs.
“If they are not literally drilling right now, they are, I believe, literally boots on the ground there … figuring out exactly where to drill, exactly how to position their equipment,” he said Thursday afternoon.
Repairs for the situation on the northbound lanes closer to Lake Hughes Road are expected to be completed by Aug. 31, according to Quickmaps; however, Comeaux cautioned against making plans around that date.
The timeline for the closure of one lane about 3 miles north of Lake Hughes Road to Templin Highway “is just a placeholder,” he said.
He added that workers there are also monitoring the situation closely.
“It remains to be seen,” he said, regarding the Lakes Hughes Road area, “because it’s an enormous amount of material, and when we start moving it, we will have to start removing it from the top. If we start removing it from the bottom, more will just fall out.”