EL DORADO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — Highway 50 has been closed off to the general public for more than two and a half weeks, but as more and more people are allowed to go back home, the closure has been reduced.
As firefighters continue to make progress on containing the Caldor Fire, Caltrans says their team has started assessing the damage the fire has caused and identifying trouble areas along Highway 50 and Highway 89 that need to be addressed before they are reopened.
Caltrans public information officer, Gilbert Mohtes-Chan, says they have already started removing some of the burned trees that could fall onto the roadway and create hazards.
“We plan to have a geologist from our headquarters to come out there and assess the stability of some of the slopes, some of the burn areas, to make sure that we don’t get any rock falls,” Mohtes-Chan said.
Officials are not just worried about the road.
There are downed power lines near Highway 50 and some are hanging from the power pole after the Caldor Fire swept through the area.
“Unfortunately, we’ve gone through this before through the Camp Fire and some other fires, so we got the experience on how to tackle this,” Mohtes-Chan said.
While city, state and U.S. Forest Service officials all agree that safety remains the top priority when determining when to end the closures, South Lake Tahoe Mayor Tamara Wallace hopes the decision comes soon because Highway 50 is one of the heavily traveled routes to her city.
“Normally when Highway 50 is closed but the businesses are open, we can expect about a $1 million per day loss to our local economy,” Wallace explained.
While the work continues to clean up and remove dangers on the road, Mohtes-Chan says they won’t reopen the affected highways until they are confident it’s safe.
“No one knows when it will be reopened,” Mohtes-Chan said. “Once it will be, we can assure motorists that all the structures and facilities will be safe to travel.”
Caltrans officials hope to finish up the assessment soon so they will have a better idea of when they can reopen Highway 50.
Some projects will be done right away and others that are not urgent will be done at a later time. Highway 80 remains open for travelers.