Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
A segment of the highway, 36 miles north of Ojai, closed for slip-out repairs

by  Maria Raptis
Issue Date: 10/2006

Road Re-opens After Emergency Repairs

Although portions of State Route 33, north of Ojai in Ventura County, had lost solid ground which resulted in two slip-outs during July and August, Caltrans’ West Region Maintenance and Construction have kept their feet firmly planted on the ground while working to prevent the road from giving Caltrans “the slip” again.  

A 20-mile section, between Lockwood Valley Road and Highway 166 in New Cuyama, had been under repair in both directions from the first slip-out in April. The impact of the 2005 winter storms caused the hillside under the road to give way.  A slip-out occurs when the material beneath the roadway erodes, especially one built on the side of a hill or mountain -- making the roadway unsafe and impassable.

“The mountainous terrain is rugged and has a history of washouts and landslides. History repeated itself early this spring when a portion of the roadway fell victim to a slope failure near the Cuyama River,” said Joseph S. Tehrani, Senior Transportation Engineer, Construction.

To expedite the repair, Caltrans Construction Office #2 in Thousand Oaks moved quickly to obtain the required environmental permits while Maintenance worked to secure an emergency, then entered into an emergency contract with Summer Construction to complete the repairs.

“Shortly after repair work on the initial slip-out began, another portion of the slope collapsed, causing closure of the northbound lane which shifted traffic to the shoulder,” said Tehrani.  “With increased heavy truck traffic and the movement of construction equipment, another portion of the road gave way, resulting in a complete road closure.”

When Highway 33 is closed, motorists must use Highways 101, 126 and Interstate 5 in and out of the Ojai Valley, which could amount to two extra hours of drive time.

Before construction was completed, the school year started.  The local children got to school with the quick action taken by the Cuyama School District and Caltrans Public Affairs Office.  Speaking of Resident Engineer Mike Dorri, Tehrani says, “Mike and his staff did everything possible to get Route 33 re-opened while a temporary relay of school buses met the children where they safely crossed the highway.” 

On September 14, Caltrans re-opened Route 33, although the road may briefly close again for additional repair work, according to Tehrani.

“The crews devoted many long hours working to ensure that repairs were completed as soon as possible.  Ventura Maintenance, the GeoTechnical staff, the Ventura Area Surveying personnel and Summer Construction, coalesced as a very effective team that proved invaluable in re-opening the road in as short a time frame as possible,” said Tehrani.

Highway 33 begins in the small town of Ojai in Ventura County and continues north through the Los Padres National Forest, terminating at Route 166 in Maricopa.  Primarily farmland, the local economy is supported by farming and sand and gravel plants.  Residents and commercial vehicles depend on Highway 33 resulting in moderate year-round traffic. Tourists enjoy its recreational attractions and scenic mountains. Wearing Caltrans hardhats, local students were safely escorted through the work zone.  This alleviated long detoured commutes by parents and school buses.  On September 14, Caltrans re-opened the damaged  segment of Highway 33 that underwent emergency repair work.