A landslide swept away the highest part of the road in 1978, cutting it off from Angeles Crest Highway. Since then, that last stretch of asphalt has been roamed by Nelson's bighorn sheep, creatures fully protected under state law. Caltrans concluded that it would be cost-prohibitive to re-engineer that 4.4-mile gap and legally risky to try because it cannot guarantee that the sheep would not be killed in the process.About 500 people use the road to get to their homes and the story says about 3,000,000 people use the road each year and it costs Caltrans $1.5 million a year to maintain the road that is regularly damaged by landslides, falling rocks, flooding, and forest fires. (Presumably that doesn't include the last 4.4 miles.)
Caltrans is the State of California Transportation Department and as it is looking for ways to cut costs, it wants to give the maintenance to Los Angeles County or the US Forest Service.
L.A. County needs the highway to access three dams critical to flood control. . .But neither is interested in taking over the job.
The Forest Service's interest is access to Angeles National Forest by the public and, at times, by firefighters. The agency spent $6 million improving a spacious campground at Crystal Lake, where the highway now ends after winding along the San Gabriel River past the Morris and San Gabriel reservoirs.
So Caltrans is talking about abandoning the road.
"According to the agreement, the only way we can extricate ourselves from it is to abandon the highway," he [Caltrans rep] said.All this seems to be some sort of brinksmanship, reporter Louis Sahagun. 3 million people a year is $.50 each to pay the repairs. But why should people on that road be required to pay when other roads get covered by the state?
The Forest Service says it has a different interpretation, one that would cost Caltrans dearly. "The permit does say that if Caltrans abandons the highway, they have to remove their improvements — meaning the road — and return the area to the natural landscape," Bergeahl said.
I like thinking about roads going back to nature. I'm not advocating it, but the whole notion of roads and other human encroachments on the earth being reclaimed by nature gives hope and perspective.
A little context for Anchorage folks. A 2010 Dowl engineering report says that 50,000 vehicles a day travel one of Anchorage's busiest roads -Tudor Road between Bragaw Street and Lake Otis. That comes to 10,000,000 vehicles per year. California's 'remote' Highway 39 carries almost 1/3 that number.
The LA Times article says 'people' per year and the Alaska report says 'vehicles' per year so these numbers may not be comparable. Nevertheless, it should put our Alaskan traffic into a bigger context and the California traffic too.
My guess all this posturing will lead to some sort of splitting up of the costs among those jurisdictions that have a vested interest in the road.