Transportation officials reopened a single lane of Highway 178 through Kern River Canyon at 10:16 a.m. Friday — about 12 hours later than planned — and business owners rejoiced.
A Caltrans spokesman said the agency had hoped to reopen the highway Thursday night, or else in time for the next morning’s commute, but clearing two rock and mud slides and repairing damage to the roadway took longer than expected.
“It was the same thing we were doing since yesterday — doing everything we can to get the lanes open,” said Caltrans spokesman Jose Camarena. “It was just the same preparations and clean-up; it just took us 12 hours longer than anticipated (with) temporary striping and things like that.”
Camarena said Highway 178 will be reduced to a single lane at least through the weekend, as crews finish repairs to the highway shoulder and hillside caused by heavy rains Sunday and Monday. As roadwork continues, Caltrans flaggers will stop traffic at either end of the canyon, and agency vehicles will lead motorists through, first in one direction, then the other.
He advised commuters to call 800-427-7623 or visit the Caltrans website (www.dot.ca.gov) for traffic updates.
The highway’s reopening was welcome news to canyon businesses, whose suppliers and customers had been forced to drive miles out of their way.
“We bring our groceries up through the canyon, and so it’s just a real inconvenience to have to go around,” said Mary Hall, of Isabella Supermarket in Lake Isabella. “We’re thrilled that it’s open.”
John Davis, owner of the River View Lodge in Kernville, said his 11-room motel, normally sold-out by week’s end, is just half full, a $1,200 loss. He blames the Monday afternoon highway closure, but said its reopening Friday morning allowed him to save one existing reservation.
“I had one of my rooms wanting to cancel — they were coming up from Bakersfield and they were towing a boat up, and they didn’t want to go that far around,” Davis said. “I was able to let them know the canyon was open to one lane.”
And at the Kern Valley Golf Course in Kernville, Redondo Beach attorney Tony Scott’s annual invitation golf tournament — a yearly tradition since 1991 — began Friday with 35 competitors and just two cancellations.