Local News

Tuesday, Dec 21 2010 11:44 AM

Highway 178 through canyon to be closed at least a week

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Large barriers block the mouth of the Kern River Canyon, Tuesday, after huge boulders fell on Highway 178 in the canyon, after heavy rainfall in the area.

    click to expand click to collapse
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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Massive boulders came down on Highway 178 at the mouth of the Kern River Canyon after recent rains. The highway remains closed indefinitely.

    click to expand click to collapse
BY STEVE E. SWENSON, Californian staff writer sswenson@bakersfield.com

Highway 178 through the Kern River Canyon is expected to be closed at least a week and maybe longer as Caltrans works to stabilize the slopes and blast the huge boulders already on the road into smaller pieces that can be removed, a spokesman said Tuesday.

"We will not get machinery into the canyon before this weekend," said Caltrans spokesman Jose Camarena in the Fresno headquarters. "We're at the mercy of the weather."

And the weather is expected to be rainy over the next few days, adding to the instability of the slopes where car-size boulders closed the highway Sunday from the mouth of the canyon to Borel Road, Caltrans reported.

Blasting those huge boulders to get them into "workable pieces" will be called for, Camarena said.

"We are doing everything we can to make sure everyone stays safe and to open the road up as quickly as possible," he said. "Right now we have a lot of people in Lake Isabella who have to take very long detours."

Not only will Caltrans have to remove the boulders and repair damaged roadway, but it also will have to assess the stability of the slopes before the canyon can be reopened, he said.

Crews are expected to make that assessment early next week, Camarena said. He did not have an estimate for when the road will be reopened.

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