Update: Highway 89 reopening date moved to 2-3 weeks

An overhead view of Highway 89 damage. Photo CalTrans

The estimate for the reopening of Highway 89 from Markleeville to Woodfords has been reduced to 2-3 weeks, according to a statement released by the California Department of Transportation just before noon Monday.

The road washes out at Millberry Creek, which skirts Highway 89 before crossing above the historic town.

CalTrans officials said the state issued an emergency ordinance to install temporary drainage on the main route between the Alpine County headquarters and the rest of the world.

“Construction crews have begun and will be working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, to install the new drainage facilities and repair the road,” CalTrans said. “The estimated time to reopen both lanes is significantly reduced from 5-6 weeks to 2-3 weeks, possibly earlier. This schedule is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather conditions, availability of equipment, materials and construction issues.

The ordinance also provides for the construction of a temporary road following the old Route 88 for emergency responders only, according to the state.

Health Services for Markleeville Residents are located in the Administration Building at 99 Water Street, Markleeville on Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment only. Appointments can be made by calling 530-694-2146.

The U.S. Postal Service will conduct a security inspection of the Markleeville Post Office to certify the building for operations. Once the building is certified for occupancy, the USPS will resume operations in Markleeville. The estimated time of reopening is yet to be determined. Hours of operation will be limited due to travel time and additional staff.

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It could be more than a month before Highway 89 reopens, Markleeville residents learned Saturday morning.

“This lane is undermined to the point where we have another event…it’s just not safe,” CalTrans Rep. Bob Highfill said at a town hall meeting in Markleeville.

State workers will install a larger culvert on Highway 89 at the entrance to the historic town. This process could take 4-5 weeks.

Highfill said it will be days before crews start working on the actual project that would open the freeway.

Almost the whole city went to the town hall.

Crews were working on an alternate route to the city in hopes of having emergency access by Wednesday.

Highfill said a temporary bridge brought in to help improve access ended up being less than the 55ft required for the span. He said installing a new temporary bridge would take as long as installing the culvert.

Alpine County Water System Manager Buck McClellan said there was a significant amount of sediment in the treatment plant, which is reducing the amount of water available to the city in its two well. He said he hoped the issues would be fixed by Monday.

McClellan raised the issue of fire protection when the road is closed.

“We are still in fire season,” he said. “You have to understand the burden you are placing on residents,” he said. You have to use several contractors to get a temporary road because Forest Service Station and Woodfords Station are on the other side and we are still in fire season. You need to look a little deeper into what CalTrans vaults contain. I don’t think the answers I’ve heard today are acceptable.

Concerns about sludge clogging in the sewage treatment plant were raised on Saturday. A contractor was due to cross Monitor Pass on Saturday to pump out the five feet of sediment. Alpine officials confirmed that the plumber could drive there with a truck.

Along with water and sewer, residents also face challenges getting mail, groceries and, in several cases, helping clean mud and debris from their homes.

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