Caltrans begins 18-month maintenance project

Work began Monday on the first phase of what will be an 18-month project to stabilize a slope on the southbound side of Pacific Coast Highway from Latigo Canyon to Via Escondido Drive. The relocation of a natural gas pipeline from the ocean side of the highway to the land side is expected to cause temporary overnight and daytime lane closures over the next six to eight weeks. 

All of this came as news to City of Malibu officials, who said they were not aware of the project until late last week.

“I know about as much as you do,” said Malibu Public Works Director Bob Brager, when asked for details of the project. 

Engineers have been monitoring the slope for many years and recommended Caltrans officials complete work to stabilize the slope, especially after bad rainstorms in 2005. The project took a while to get rolling because Caltrans had to get permission from private property owners in the area affected by the project.

“Anyone who drives up and down PCH can see where there’s some kind of slope stabilization,” Caltrans spokesperson Patrick Chandler said. 

Once the gas pipeline is moved, Caltrans plans on installing an unspecified number of steel beams on the southbound shoulder to stabilize the slope between Jan. 2013 and Summer 2014, according to Chandler. 

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“Generally what happens is piles are inserted into the soil or bedrock to stabilize the hillside. Our geologists go out and evaluate 

the area,” Chandler said. “They’ll determine how many piles will go in.”

Caltrans has yet to determine when and if lane closures will happen once the pipeline is relocated and the stabilization process begins. 

“If we need to reduce lanes in the area, we’ll let the area know,” Chandler said. 

Brager remains concerned about the extent of the project and how it might affect residents. 

“We’re trying to get a grasp of what this project is all about, because they did say they were going to close down some lanes,” he said. “PCH is basically our main road, our main street in Malibu.”

It’s unclear why Malibu found out about the project just days before it was set to begin.

“The contractor is supposed to let the city know a few weeks in advance. I’m not sure why that wasn’t followed,” said Sheik Moinuddin, a senior transportation engineer for Caltrans who works on Malibu-area projects.

Caltrans does not usually alert the city of routine maintenance projects because of the sheer volume of such projects that are ongoing, according to Brager.

“But this appears to be a little more than a maintenance project,” he said.

Chandler said the work to stabilize the slope will help avoid roadway damage in the long run. 

“This is a project to support the roadway over several decades,” Chandler said. 

Phase One of the gasline relocation should not require lane closures and will go from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 26 through Friday, Nov. 30.

Phase Two, set to begin next week and last for an unspecified amount of time, will require intermittent nighttime lane closures as crews excavate and replace parts of the pipeline between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. 

Phase Three, the final relocation phase, will limit northbound lane use. 

“The [number] 1 northbound lane will be open to vehicular traffic and the [number] 2 northbound lane will be open to pedestrians and bicyclists,” according a posting on the City of Malibu’s website. 

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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