Small Placer County Town Burdened by Crumbling Infrastructure

ALTA -- Nestled in the foothills along Interstate 80, Alta is a destination for the simple life.

"We like our seclusion we moved up here for that," said Jerry Smith.

Fifteen years ago Kinsey and Jerry Smith traded in the Bay Area for a quiet serene setting.

But lately, they say it's been different.

The Smiths say they they've lost their privacy and their convenience, which can be blamed on Mother Nature and this year's relentless winter rain.

"Wow! I didn't expect that. When I went down there I did not expect that," Jerry Smith said.

On January 11th, raging water from Canyon Creek overwhelmed the culverts under Morton Road. The dirt washed away and the asphalt cracked, leaving behind a massive hole 40 feet deep and 80 feet wide.

"Oh yeah absolutely, craziest thing that's happened up here," Jerry Smith said.

For nearly four months leaving the house has been complicated.

The Smith's and 14 other families have no direct way over Canyon Creek and onto the freeway.

"The whole thing is like an adjustment, everything has to be adjusted around it," Kinsey Smith said.

Neighbors are forced to drive roughly 10 extra minutes through private, treacherous back roads to get out.

The Smiths are irritated.

"Oh this is like a freeway going through our yard, so it's not very peaceful!" Jerry Smith said.

"It's like, 'oh another car, oh a truck, oh a truck oh a car....' it just kept building and building up," Kinsey Smith added.

"Yeah it's always a challenge" Jerry Smith said.

The Smith's are taking it in strike, but their challenges could become dangerous.

If there were an emergency, police, fire and other service vehicles may not be able to get to the Smith's or their neighbors.

"They can't get a propane truck in there to get propane, fire, emergency services really can't get in that curvy access road," said Placer County senior civil engineer Kevin Ordway.

Ordway says that's why there's a serious sense of urgency to fix Morton Road.

"We're taking a project that would take four or five years and we're trying to get it done in four or five months," Ordway said.

Ordway says crews are on track to finishing a new bridge by June.

It's expected to cost $2.5 million. Placer County applied for aid from both FEMA and Cal OES.

The hope is for the state and federal government to help alleviate the unanticipated cost of damage from a historic Northern California winter.

Alta is just one example of California roads, highways and bridges that cracked, buckled and washed away after being weakened by relentless rain and flooding.

"California has very unique geology, even in this area," Ordway said. "The geology is drastically different just a few hundreds of yards apart and when you add water to that you're always gonna get some kind of surprise."

The Smith's understand their convenience is temporary and for their own safety. They also know soon things will go back to the way they like it.

"They'll get the bridge in and we'll be back to our peace and quiet," Jerry Smith said.