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STE 78 closes March 6

Discussion in 'Pacific Region' started by roadnotca, Feb 22, 2007.

  1. roadnotca

    roadnotca 3/4 ton status

    Sep 16, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Redondo Beach, CA
    road closesure effecting TDS

    Terry Work
    CORVA -California Off Road Vehicle Association
    Vice President Sales & Marketing
    4565 West Ave M-14
    Quartz Hill, CA 93536
    Phone:1-800-42-corva box 513 -
    1-661-722-3310 (home)
    terry@corva.org or tpwork@yahoo.com

    [FONT=times new roman, new york, times, serif]

    [FONT=times new roman, new york, times, serif]----- Forwarded Message ----
    From: Pete Conaty pconaty@sbcglobal.net

    Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2007 11:09:09 AM
    Subject: FYI Borrego Springs road closure

    -Pete Conaty

    Caltrans to close key route to desert - San Diego Union-Tribune 2-21
    Detour upsets area retailers, off-roaders
    By J. Harry Jones

    February 21, 2007
    BORREGO SPRINGS - Reversing a decision that had pleased off-road vehicle enthusiasts and residents of Borrego Springs, the state's transportation department now plans to shut down state Route 78 in the desert in two weeks.
    Beginning March 6, thousands upon thousands of off-road enthusiasts wanting to make their way to the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area and to the sand dunes beyond will be forced to take a lengthy and potentially dangerous detour through Borrego Springs.
    The oft-delayed project to widen and strengthen a bridge along the highway between Scissors Crossing and Yaqui Pass Road will close the highway until April 30, including over the popular spring and Easter breaks.
    The off-roading community, which thought it had successfully battled the closure, is outraged. And Borrego Springs residents and businesses, worried about excessive traffic, are upset as well.
    The obvious question: Why doesn't the state Department of Transportation wait until summer to repair the bridge, when the stifling heat of the desert limits the number of people eager to drive around in the sand?
    The answer: bats.
    The San Felipe Bridge is home to an endangered bat species beginning in late spring, and federal law prohibits the habitat from being disrupted until October.
    The detour will add about an hour to a trip for most people in the San Diego region. And many say it will make it dangerous as large motor homes and trailers hauling off-road equipment are forced to maneuver down the curvy and steep county Road S22, also known as Montezuma Valley Road .
    Roy Denner of the Off-Road Business Association said he once made the mistake of driving down Montezuma in his motor home.
    "By the time I got to the end of the hill, my brakes were burning," he said. "The option of going through Borrego Springs means you might never get there."
    The only other option, Denner said, is to go out Interstate 8 and up through Imperial County , a trip that could easily add 90 minutes to the drive for those going to Ocotillo.
    Compounding problems, the detour will coincide with Borrego Springs' busiest season when people flock to the desert to look at spring flowers.
    This year, because of a lack of rain, flowers are in short supply. But it's still the busiest time of year, residents say, and most of the local hotels are already booked.
    "It's really horrible timing for us. It couldn't be worse," said Gwenn Marie, owner of the Borrego Valley Inn and president of the local Chamber of Commerce. "March 6 through April 30 is our peak, peak season. It's not going to be pleasant to have our roads glutted with pass-through traffic."
    "It's going to be difficult for the town," said Mike Gaffney, manager of Hacienda del Sol, a hotel on the main drag. "This is a peaceful community."
    Gaffney said the detour could have some benefits. "As people come back, they may stop to have a meal and maybe check out the mall," he said.
    The bridge repair project was originally scheduled to begin in November, but the off-roading community raised an uproar since the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons are the most popular times to go to the desert.
    As a compromise, Caltrans delayed the closure until after the holidays. But then, following a meeting in Borrego Springs at which off-roaders and members of that town's business community expressed concerns, Caltrans scrapped the detour altogether.
    The department announced the road would remain open as repairs were made, beginning early last month. During the week, traffic over the bridge would have been limited to one-way until 4 p.m.
    The new plan was going to cost Caltrans about $200,000 more than the projected $3.74 million cost of the repairs. "We did it for the good will of the people," said spokesman Hayden Manning in late December.
    But then those plans fell apart.
    Caltrans Spokesman Edward Cartagena yesterday said the contractor, MCM Construction of Sacramento, was upset about having to twice set up and prepare for the project, only to have plans change.
    Negotiations continued through January, and two weeks ago, the decision was made to close the highway after all.
    Cartagena said the bottom line is the bridge has to be repaired and the state has simply run out of time.
    The state is placing announcements in various newspapers and off-roader magazines this week and next to alert the public to the closure, he said.
    Sherri Kukla, an off-roading enthusiast who lives in Ocotillo Wells, has been dealing with Caltrans for the past six months.
    Editor and co-publisher of San Diego Off Road Magazine, Kukla sent an e-mail to 1,300 people alerting them to plans to close the highway in October when it was first proposed. Caltrans was overwhelmed by phone calls, and the public pressure was credited with causing the first delay.
    Kukla said she now was very upset about the decision to move forward with the closure.
    "The time for the businesses who cater to the off-roading community to make their money is between October and the end of Easter vacation," she said. "Plus, they're going to endanger people having them drive those big motor homes down Montezuma."

    [​IMG]J. Harry Jones: (760) 737-7579; jharry.jones@uniontrib.com


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