The asphalt lies in our stars: Fourth-of-July motorists may expect a rocky road Sunday.

Repaving of Pacific Coast Highway is either on schedule, behind schedule or ahead of schedule, depending on who is talking.

The facts seem to get sucked into a communications vortex somewhere between Caltrans and paving contractor Sully Miller.

A Caltrans press release issued Monday says paving began on southbound PCH between Paradise Cove Road and Las Flores Canyon Sunday and will continue through the week. That’s about 15 miles.

Paving will resume (they don’t say when will it stop, possibly over the July 4 weekend?) the week of July 5 southbound between Paradise Cove and Topanga, (about 20 miles). Awfully long stretch that; can we be more specific?

On the west side of town, northbound and southbound lanes were scheduled to be resurfaced between Paradise Cove and Trancas Canyon between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Was it finished on Tuesday? No one seems to know. Scott McKenzie, Caltrans senior transportation engineer who deals with the contractor on a daily basis, and Ben Ghafgazi, Caltrans resident engineer, did not return phone calls Tuesday afternoon.

Sameer Haddadeen, another Caltrans senior transportation engineer, said it was impossible to predict exactly which sections of the road would be coned off on any given day. “We have loop detectors in the pavement and we have to install them first, after cold planing and before paving,” he said. “It depends on the conditions they encounter in the field, the delays. It’s hard to say exactly when they will be working in specific areas. It’s up to the contractor’s operation, as long as he meets our schedule of completion on July 15.”

Northbound PCH between Topanga and Paradise Cove was to have been completed Friday, Caltrans said, but that seems not to be the case. A two-mile stretch between Carbon Canyon and the pier has neither been planed nor paved. In fact, work will not start there until Southern California Edison has finished undergrounding utilities in the area. This part of the paving will probably not be started until September, according to Caltrans.

The northbound lanes at Cross Creek are paved from the pier through the Civic Center. Southbound lanes have been cold planed in preparation for application of new asphalt.

Caltrans says motorists are advised to reduce speed through the construction zone.

More problematic is turning left or making U-turns when the center turning lane is coned off, either for planing or while newly applied asphalt is drying. Sheriff’s deputies last week said it is illegal and dangerous to turn from the No. 1 lane, and that in areas where no opportunities for a right-hand turn exist (this applies to most of Malibu’s 27 miles), motorists must continue until they find an area where a left-hand turn or U-turn is legal. That could be a long haul.

On Tuesday, however, Sheriff’s Traffic Sgt. Kevin Mauch said it would be legal to turn left from the No. 1 lane when there is no opposing traffic at an intersection where cross traffic is not temporarily restricted. This may or may not apply to Cross Creek, Webb Way, Malibu Canyon Road and John Tyler Drive in the Civic Center area.

There have been two accidents in areas where lanes were coned off, but they were not precipitated by illegal left turns. “They were caused by someone merging unsafely into the remaining lanes,” Mauch said. “The two accidents were both at night. The vehicles were damaged, but there were no injuries.”

Because motorists have complained that driving at the prevailing speed limit over lanes that have been cold planed causes loss of control and damage from debris flying up from the roadbed, Caltrans will put up mobile speed-restriction signs — 40 mph through the construction zone. These signs will advise motorists that fines for exceeding speed limits in a construction zone are doubled. At an average rate of about $200, this gives new meaning to the old saw, “Haste makes waste.”

Call Caltrans at 213.897.4867, 897.9102 or 897.0849 for more information Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. For damage claims, call 213.897.0186 or 897.0187.

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

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