Boulders buried deep in the hillside just east of Las Flores Canyon Road are delaying the opening of a third lane on Pacific Coast Highway. Caltrans had planned to reopen the third lane last week.
The extra lane would be used for eastbound traffic during the morning commute and would switch to westbound to accommodate evening commuters returning to Malibu.
The No. 1 priority is public safety. “There are some humongous boulders up there,” said city Street Maintenance Manager Richard Calvin. “Safety is the big thing for everyone to be concerned about. At least it should be.”
The hillside rises about 250 feet above the PCH. A pocket of boulders is lodged about 60 feet up, Calvin estimated. “You’re not in a position to go ripping and snorting [through the hill],” Calvin said. “Any size rock coming from that vertical can be potentially a killer.”
Some of the boulders are 3 to 4 feet in diameter, while most are 18 inches, according to Calvin. But even a rock only a few inches in diameter poses a threat of serious harm.
“An 8-inch rock picks up a tremendous amount of velocity down the slope. At the very least, it could break a bone. It may also kill someone,” Calvin warned. “I’ve seen boulders larger than a Volkswagen and probably the same size as a pick-up truck. I’m not saying those will be the ones rolling downhill, but I’m saying there’s always that potential.”
Caltrans expects to have the boulders removed in a week and a half but is not making any promises. “They can’t see any farther into the ground than you can,” Calvin said.
But Calvin was quick to squash any rumors that the slide was moving. “There is no movement since the work began,” he emphasized.
There are 10 people on the job working 12-hour days, seven days a week. Calvin added, “They are doing the very best they can.”
Caltrans officials predict the entire project will be completed within a couple of months.