Catastrophic storms rolled through California’s Riverside County on Valentine’s Day 2019, severely damaging sections of Highways 74 and 243 and cutting off the most direct access to the scenic mountain community of Idyllwild. On a 15-mile segment of the two-lane Highway 74, the roadway had collapsed in several places, and on a six-mile stretch of Highway 243, portions were washed out and an entire section had given way, slipping down the side of the mountain.
Ames crews mobilized to the site immediately. Working without project plans, the Ames team coordinated with project owner Caltrans to move forward with repairs, open the roadway to traffic, and get designs in place to rebuild the highways. In addition to clearing debris, the emergency work included rebuilding slopes and roadbeds, scaling rock, replacing storm drains, repaving roads, and reinstalling guardrails and signage.
By mid-March, Ames crews had repaired enough of Highway 74 to permit highway traffic under limited escort, and by August, round-the-clock escorts were available.
The northern half of Highway 243 remained largely inaccessible during reconstruction of the collapsed lanes, and worked progressed with the expectation that the highway could open for use with a pilot car by the spring of 2020. However, an aggressive schedule and favorable weather conditions helped accelerate the process of getting traffic moving again. On November 1, 2019—nearly eight months after storms tore it apart—Highway 243 reopened.