SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Just in time for the first work week after the Thanksgiving holiday, Highway 154 reopened ahead of schedule - after being shut down for close to a week due to the Cave Fire.
Caltrans crews are now trying to repair important infrastructure before forecasted rain. Crews have been along the 154 since Thanksgiving Eve and on Monday, Geo-Tech Engineers were assessing the slop and damage caused by the Cave Fire.
Commuters finally got an up-close look at the singed landscape lining Highway 154 Monday.
“I’ve seen the stress and the heartache it gives to all the homeowners and people driving through,” said John Cena, a utility repairman passing through.
With CHP standing by and reminding drivers to slow down, there are lane closures between East Camino Cielo and San Antonio Creek Road.
“We’re putting in and having to replace new guard rail. The posts were burned out, blocks are burned out so we have to reconstruct the guard rail and then we have some drain issues we have to address,” said Robert Bonilla, Caltrans Field Inspector.
For drivers, the delay is a small price to pay for a sense of normalcy. “It’s very helpful, it lets everyone go through the Canyon Road without being diverted,” said Cena.
Now, Caltrans crews are in a race against the clock.
“Weather is going to be the factor. We have rain coming in again and once the rain comes in, we can’t have traffic working next to us,” said Bonilla.
Overnight work is out of the question and unstable embankments have created a challenge.
“You can’t with the rocks and everything unstable and rocks coming down off the hill, I don’t it’s safe for anyone to work in those conditions,” said Bonilla.
Crews are about halfway done. Late Monday afternoon they were finishing up guardrail number five with three long stretches to go.
Bonilla isn’t sure how long it will take to get things completely back to normal along the 154.