Big Bear Lake, CA — It was during a routine “storm patrol” that a CalTrans employee discovered the damage to the Highway 330 culvert (from the 1940s) and erosion to the roadway, prompting the emergency repair project that got underway on Tuesday, March 16. In a presentation before the City Council of Big Bear Lake on Monday, CalTrans liaison Dennis Green assured, “We are going to do everything we can to accelerate opening of this road–because we know you have a big bike event.” However, before Highway 330 can be reopened to motorists, the contractor on the project is awaiting the delivery of a specially made replacement pipe, which will be 11’ in diameter and 266’ long; the galvanized pipe is coming from Kentucky and should be here in two weeks.
When the emergency project was implemented, on a day’s notice, CalTrans expected that the job would take a few months, resulting in the full closure of Highway 330 until mid-June. However, as Green noted on March 22, “We understand how crucial this road is to the mountain communities.” With that, road prep is being done so that the pipe can be installed, up to 80’ below the roadway, upon arrival, and then the road will need to be reconstructed. As Highway 330 cuts through San Bernardino National Forest, Green added that there are environmental challenges on the project and, he said, “So we’re working from the roadway to minimize the footprint on the forest.”
City Councilmember Rick Herrick, who also serves as the local chair for the Amgen Tour of California, which comes to Big Bear on May 21, pointed out that the tourism generated by the cycling race will be critical to Southern California, the County of San Bernardino, and the Big Bear Valley. Though the race route to the mountain does not include Highway 330, Herrick added, “This road is crucial to move 100,000 visitors up and down the mountain in the space of a few days. And our businesses on the west side of town suffer terribly when that road is closed.” Green says that CalTrans has placed 11 portable message signs at the base of the mountain and along mountain routes, and Big Bear Mountain Resorts staff were checking on their positioning; and, as City Manager Jeff Mathieu pointed out, there are still three routes open to access Big Bear. These routes are Highway 18 from San Bernardino, Highway 18 from Lucerne Valley, and Highway 38 from Mentone.
As progress continues on the Highway 330 pipe and road replacement project, CalTrans anticipates that there may be some amendments to the full road closure. By April’s end, the closure will be reassessed and there is the possibility of flagging and perhaps a downhill-in-the-morning/uphill-in-the-evening accommodation for mountain commuters. In the meantime, Green assured, “The goal is to open this road as quickly as it is safe to do so.”