Woodside: One-way traffic likely for months on storm-damaged section of Hwy. 84


Erosion caused by surface and subterranean water during the Jan. 10-11 storms has weakened part of Highway 84 in the hills above Woodside. A 75-to-100-foot section located a few minutes north of Skylonda and just past Grandview Drive dropped by about 9 inches, according to a foreman directing a clean-up crew on Jan. 14.

Traffic is one lane for several hundred feet and will likely remain one lane while the California Department of Transportation designs and builds a retaining wall to shore up a new section of road, said Granite Construction Foreman Joel Duckworth, on the scene under contract to Caltrans.

The Almanac sought a comment from Caltrans, but the offices were closed for the holiday.

It could be a few months before normal two-way traffic resumes, Mr. Duckworth said. At both ends of the damaged section, flag crews will be on hand around the clock to direct traffic until temporary autonomous traffic lights go in, he said.

Drivers are advised to consider alternate routes, including Kings Mountain Road in Woodside and, further north, Highway 92 across the Crystal Springs Reservoir.

What happened

Residents near the damaged area have been complaining to Caltrans for months about erosion along the downhill edges of the road, particularly a spot a half-mile to the east at the intersection of Highway 84 and Friars Lane.

As for the current subsidence, Grandview Drive resident William Fender said he recalled seeing a "big crack" in the road as he drove down the hill. The road surface dropped 6 inches when crossing the crack, he said, adding that at one point, his entire vehicle was within the borders of the subsidence area.

"That's mountain living," he said at one point, and complimented crews who restored electrical power after a couple of outages during the storm. "That was great! They did a good job," he said.

Town Manager Kevin Bryant said that staff "constantly remind Caltrans that (erosion) is an issue" on Highway 84, and that Caltrans typically responds with a plan on how they're going to address it. "I was always under the impression that (Friars Lane) was an urgent repair project," he said.

The roadbed of Highway 84 is subject to erosion because much of it happens to lie directly in the path of storm-water runoff descending steep slopes. In the recent storm, enough water flowed on the surface to cause mudslides onto the road surface and the toppling of two major trees located on the uphill side of the road, Mr. Duckworth said.

But water also ran below the surface, undermining support for the road, sending semi-liquid soil to the bottom of the slope, and triggering the subsidence, Mr. Duckworth said, adding: "The road is failing."

To create a workable surface for a new road, a crew with an excavator has already built a temporary soil roadbed with a 3-foot berm between the road's edge and the downhill slope. The retaining wall -- now in the design phase, Mr. Duckworth said -- will come after bore holes and soil testing indicate the most appropriate wall for the situation.

Design will take a couple of weeks, and in a few months, "they'll have a retaining wall," he said.

"They'll have to dig way down. We're talking big time," Woodside Town Engineer Sean Rose said, taking care to note that he was speculating about the repair.

Asked about Town Hall's working relationship with Caltrans, Mr. Rose said that staff members contact Caltrans in response to residents' calls about state roads. "We did that (for the Friars Lane spot) and that's all we can do because they make the decisions," he said. The staff did not receive calls about the current problem area, he said.

Friars Lane "looks to me like it could go at any time," he added.


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23 people like this
Posted by Cc
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 17, 2017 at 12:27 pm

Please remember while driving on Old La Honda Road the speed limit is 25 mph not 35-45 mph as on 84. Since the construction on 84 started many drivers are speeding up and down OLHR. Please slow down so no one get hurt. Thank you

5 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 17, 2017 at 4:44 pm

Please also remember that Old La Honda is used by a LOT of bikes in both directions. The climbers may be going VERY slowly. Share the road with caution

11 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 17, 2017 at 4:45 pm

... and many of those bikes are out early and late and some of those riders are foolish in their lack of lighting.

6 people like this
Posted by Woodsy
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jan 17, 2017 at 7:58 pm

I don't understand. Cal Trans has known about the problem at Friars Lane and has done nothing so far but put some sandbags out. What are they waiting for someone to drive over it and the road give way and someone goes down the edge and gets hurt or worse? If they know there is a safety issue and does nothing, if the time comes and someone gets hurt, big lawsuit?
I heard they told the neighbor that lives there they basically wait until the road fails before they do anything.
Why don't they fix it at the same time they fix the problem at Grandview?
Anyhow thanks for reporting on it keep us posted.

17 people like this
Posted by Emma
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jan 18, 2017 at 6:11 am

For the concerned Menlo Park residents who for some reason must ride their bicycles on Old La Honda road, it is very simple "do not ride your bicycles there"... find a different route while they are fixing put yourself in danger by riding your bicycles on a "one lane" road with now heavy traffic, commuters need this road to get from point a to b....think of the people who live in that town, don't be selfish.

3 people like this
Posted by Alan L
a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2017 at 12:42 pm

I own a home in San Gregorio on Highway 84. Cal-Trans is the most self-interested and disdainful agency I have ever dealt with. I suspect that they received prior notice of concern about the portion of 84 that just slid, and ignored it---just as they have ignored a slope bank failure on my property on 84 (a slope bank constructed by Cal-Trans). I (literally) wrote Bijan Sartipi several times about the problem, and then, after repeated attempts that did not even receive any reply, wrote several other officials in the agency. Not a single one replied in any fashion whatsoever. I finally asked our Senator Jerry Hill to intercede. It took Cal-Trans two weeks to reply to the Senator (still without any information to me) to tell him that repair of the failure was not considered a high priority. When bureaucracies become self important and unreachable, they need a new management and ethic. The slope failure has still not been repaired after a year.

1 person likes this
Posted by Dick
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jan 18, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Thanks to the Almanac for excellent reporting on the current problem, plus the problem that is likely to go next on 84 across from Friar's Lane. this spot could collapse any time, and do great harm. I only hope this reporting gets Caltrans to fix this problem on a timely basis.

3 people like this
Posted by Rich Lee
a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2017 at 4:21 pm

I have lived on skyline Boulevard south of 84 for 25 years, also serving as a first responder to numerous injury and fatal accidents over that time. I have also been a sports car enthusiast and competitive cyclist for longer than that and like many, know that Old La Honda is the local "test piece" for comparing climbing skills. like many, we choose it over the other roads to get to skyline Boulevard because of the normally light traffic. However, I won't drive up it on a weekend during daylight hours because of all the cyclists who are working so hard to get up it. What makes matters worse or all of the tourists who are driving by GPS and end up on old La Honda Road clueless to the fact that it has two way traffic. Even with one-way traffic controls, Highway 84 is probably still quicker than trying to navigate Old Honda Road.

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