EL DORADO COUNTY -- U.S. Highway 50 has taken a beating this winter from avalanches and mudslides.
Tuesday, it took another blow, this time after a westbound lane collapsed into the canyon bordering the south fork of the American River.
The chasm was still growing by midday Tuesday threatening to take out another lane about 20 miles east of Placerville.
It is unclear what caused the collapse, but it's suspected that too much water entered the base of the pavement through cracks and washed the supporting soil and hillside away. Erosion caused by the swollen river may also have contributed to the road failure.
Caltrans engineers and workers were putting up a temporary concrete barrier to isolate the collapsed highway. It is four lanes at the site of the collapse, and traffic was reduced to a single lane. East-west traffic alternated through the construction area.
Caltrans hopes that it can stabilize the roadway and open it to one lane in each direction as early as Wednesday.
Traffic Tuesday was delayed from 5 to 10 minutes. Caltrans says delays won't be significant because Highway 50 is reduced to two lanes farther east anyway.
The permanent fix is more complex than clearing out a mudslide. A structural support will probably have to be built to support the collapsed road and that could take four to six months.
Meanwhile there will likely be more rain and snow to come in the next few months.