DEL NORTE COUNTY- Congressman Jared Huffman was in Del Norte County taking a tour of Last Chance Grade. It’s a two-lane section of Highway 101 South of Crescent City. The road may appear stable, but everyday it’s moving closer towards the ocean. The Project Manager for Last Chance Grade, Talitha Hodgson said, "It’s been an issue since the road was built, the instability out there." The unstable road conditions are something Community Co-Chair for the Last Chance Grade Committee, Kurt Stremberg, knows all too well. Stremberg added, "In 1972 my parents traveled over that road over the highway and the highway slide into the ocean basically and they went over the cliff and died."
Caltrans wants to make sure that accidents like that don’t happen again. Since 1980 the state has invested over $30 million dollars in repairs, and their work is not over yet. Stremberg added, "Someone is going to probably experience the same thing, there is no real time maintenance on that road to tell you when something has gone wrong."
According to a Caltrans geologist since March 2012 to September 2013, the northern part of the highway has moved 11 inches towards the ocean. This problem is what prompted Congressman Huffman to make the trip to Del Norte County. Huffman added, "I think I understand a little better the challenge of trying to maintain a roadway on a hill side that is moving, and that everyone agrees you can't prevent from moving.”
The movement of the slide is triggered by rainfall, making the road difficult to stabilize. However, another problem for Caltrans is that Last Chance Grade runs right through the redwoods. Project Manager Hodgson added, "Previous plans we have come with have had impacts to old growth redwoods. We don't want to do that."
Right now the problem is clear, but the solution is uncertain. Hodgson added, "Were going to be working with the different agencies and trying to come up with a good plan that everybody has a chance to have input on."
To determine what’s next for Last Chance Grade, Caltrans will continue with its feasibility study.