California storms close roads, affect freight, cause $401M in road damage

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Updated Feb 17, 2017
Mudslides in California caused the closure of U.S. Highway 50 in El Dorado County.Mudslides in California caused the closure of U.S. Highway 50 in El Dorado County.

More rain is expected this week in California as ongoing mudslides and heavy erosion have kept thousands of state road workers busy working around the clock to repair and reopen several state roads.

Freight transportation has been impacted by the winters storms, which have affected every region in California, according to Caltrans, the state’s transportation department. An intitial damage estimate for 190 locations throughout the state’s highway system is at $401 million (video below).

While landslides have covered some roads and left them impassable, others have collapsed because of excessive erosion.

“Our roadways have been pounded this winter by the severe weather conditions,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Crews are mobilized across the state removing debris, repairing road damage, performing traffic control and assessing ongoing risks. As we work to reopen many of our roadways, we are also preparing for the next wave of storms. We will continue to work around the clock.”

Meteorologists are predicting storm systems to impact California beginning today and by Monday, the state may receive three to eight inches of rainfall, and snow levels could drop as low as 5,000 feet in Northern California.

U.S. Highway 50 in El Dorado County had been closed from Pollock Pines to Strawberry for about 20 miles due to multiple active mudslides. Caltrans reported last night that the road has been cleared and is now reopen. The first slides occurred Feb. 10 and were cleared but then several other slides followed. Caltrans used five large excavators, four loaders, 25 semi-trucks, one paver and one grinder to clear the highway.

Crews are currently working to restore full access to the following roadways:

  • Westbound Interstate 80 is closed at the Nevada State line due to a landslide.
  • State Route 1 near Leggett in Mendocino County has been closed since Feb. 3 due to an active slide. Cleanup to reopen the highway has been slow due to the instability of the slide and concern for worker safety.
  • Northbound State Route 17 at Sugarloaf Road in Santa Cruz County is closed due to a mudslide.
  • Crews are working to restore State Route 37 between U.S. Highway 101 and Atherton Avenue in Marin County.

The recent storms have also affected rail and freight movement; below are a few of the major routes affected:

  • Union Pacific Fresno Sub South of Elk Grove is out of service due to derailment on Feb. 10.
  • Union Pacific Sub above Oroville is out of service due to washouts, rockslides and flooding.
  • Heavier than usual freight traffic over the Martinez subdivision between Oakland and Sacramento is leading to significant delays to Amtrak trains.
  • The Coast Starlight is cancelled between Redding and Sacramento; however, trains are running from Redding to Seattle, and Sacramento to Los Angeles.

Caltrans anticipates additional closures with the new storm systems; motorists should check road conditions frequently. For the latest road condition information, the radio may be tuned to the Caltrans Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) at 530 AM, 1610 AM or 1670 AM or call the

Caltrans Road Condition Hotline at 1-800-427-ROAD (7623). Real time conditions are also available online and for mobile phones at