Local News

Friday, Aug 23 2013 10:44 AM

Single lane of Highway 178 reopens, 12 hours later than expected

  1. 1 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The California

    After the Kern River Canyon reopened Friday morning, traffic was escorted through the rough sections after mud and rocks covered sections of Highway 178 from the storm last Monday.

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  2. 2 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The California

    There is still roadwork to be cautious of in the Kern River Canyon along Highway 178, but the road is open in both directions with escorts on the one lane that is open.

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  3. 3 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The California

    While waiting for the Kern River Canyon to open, Roger Acuna and his son Roger get ready to head up the river for a camping trip after playing catch on the side of Highway 178.

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  4. 4 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The California

    A large church group from Southern California waits at the mouth of the Kern River Canyon Friday for the road to open while listening to Dylan Ochoa play his guitar on the side of the road. They were on a camping trip and waited for the road to open to enjoy their weekend in the mountains.

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  5. 5 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The California

    Several dozen vehicles loaded with camping gear and people wait for Higway 178 to open Friday morning at the mouth of the Kern River Canyon to head east to the Kern River Valley and other areas to recreate for the weekend.

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  6. 6 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The California

    Many waited for the canyon to open Friday after a five-day closure after Monday's storm brought down mud and rocks, closing the road. Most were heading to the Kern River Valley area to spend the weekend camping, while many motorists found alternate routes to the same area.

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  7. 7 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The California

    Ray Roberts with Granite Construction waits at the road closure on Highway 178 east of town Friday morning. The road was opened about an hour later after slides from the storm earlier in the week forced the closure.

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  8. 8 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The California

    It was a waiting game Friday morning at the mouth of the Kern River Canyon for these motorists, mostly campers heading to the Kern River Valley for a weekend of camping. Granite Construction and CalTrans had the road opened before 10:30 a.m. with escorts on one lane.

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  9. 9 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The California

    Carlos Acuna plays catch with his dad, Roger, Friday while waiting for the canyon road to open.

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  10. 10 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The California

    Carlos Acuna plays catch with his father, Roger, Friday morning at the mouth of the Kern River Canyon while they wait for the reopening after Monday's closure due to mud and rock slides after the storm. It reopened at 10:16 a.m. The family was heading to the Kern River Valley on a camping trip.

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BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

Transportation officials reopened a single lane of Highway 178 through Kern River Canyon at 10:16 a.m. Friday — about 12 hours later than planned — and business owners rejoiced.

A Caltrans spokesman said the agency had hoped to reopen the highway Thursday night, or else in time for the next morning’s commute, but clearing two rock and mud slides and repairing damage to the roadway took longer than expected.

“It was the same thing we were doing since yesterday — doing everything we can to get the lanes open,” said Caltrans spokesman Jose Camarena. “It was just the same preparations and clean-up; it just took us 12 hours longer than anticipated (with) temporary striping and things like that.”

Camarena said Highway 178 will be reduced to a single lane at least through the weekend, as crews finish repairs to the highway shoulder and hillside caused by heavy rains Sunday and Monday. As roadwork continues, Caltrans flaggers will stop traffic at either end of the canyon, and agency vehicles will lead motorists through, first in one direction, then the other.

He advised commuters to call 800-427-7623 or visit the Caltrans website (www.dot.ca.gov) for traffic updates.

The highway’s reopening was welcome news to canyon businesses, whose suppliers and customers had been forced to drive miles out of their way.

“We bring our groceries up through the canyon, and so it’s just a real inconvenience to have to go around,” said Mary Hall, of Isabella Supermarket in Lake Isabella. “We’re thrilled that it’s open.”

Others agreed.

John Davis, owner of the River View Lodge in Kernville, said his 11-room motel, normally sold-out by week’s end, is just half full, a $1,200 loss. He blames the Monday afternoon highway closure, but said its reopening Friday morning allowed him to save one existing reservation.

“I had one of my rooms wanting to cancel — they were coming up from Bakersfield and they were towing a boat up, and they didn’t want to go that far around,” Davis said. “I was able to let them know the canyon was open to one lane.”

And at the Kern Valley Golf Course in Kernville, Redondo Beach attorney Tony Scott’s annual invitation golf tournament — a yearly tradition since 1991 — began Friday with 35 competitors and just two cancellations.

 

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