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State officials tour Highland mudslide damage

January 6, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The community of Highland is struggling to recover from serious mudslide damage after the recent storms and homeowners are hoping to get some government help. State emergency officials were in the area on Thursday to tour the mud and flood damage. They also took a ride up Highway 330 to look at roadway damage.

News that Highway 330 would likely be closed for at least two years didn't sit well with residents who commute to and from the mountain community.

"This is going to majorly impact the mountain communities. It's already impacting Highway 18 and causing that road to be overcrowded," said Rhea-Frances Tetley of Crestline.

In December, a portion of the 15-mile stretch of roadway connecting Highland to Running Springs gave way after heavy rainstorms.

On Thursday, Mike Dayton, secretary of the California Emergency Management Agency, toured the damage roadway with Caltrans city and county leaders. It's an inspection that will help pave the way for federal money to begin rebuilding the major mountain artery for residents and visitors.

"When you have a disaster of this magnitude, it does exceed the capacity of local and county budgets and the state's budget response, so we will be seeking federal assistance to rebuild the community," said Dayton.

The gaping hole will not be a quick-fix for Caltrans crews, who are still assessing the damage. Estimates as to when Highway 330 would reopen to traffic remain uncertain.

Officials said they are considering building a bridge as part of the solution. Another solution that Caltrans is considering is to rebuild the embankment if the surrounding soil is stable enough.

"I understand the impacts, the lifestyle changes that the closure of this roadway impacts, but at the same time, I've got to provide a safe passage when I finally open this road again," said Ray Wolfe, Caltrans District 8 Director.

Officials remind residents that there are three alternatives to Highway 330 to get up to the mountain: Highway 18 through Waterman, Highway 38 through Redlands and Highway 18 through Lucerne Valley.

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