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Reno Nevada News
Interstate 80 Closed - Mudslides

January 01, 2006
A five-mile stretch of Interstate 80 near Truckee could be closed until at least Monday because of a major mudslide.

The area is about 5 miles east of Truckee, the California Department of Transportation reports.

The slide -- covering both directions of the highway -- occurred at approximately 3 a.m. Saturday.

About six big rigs were caught in the slide, along with four pieces of Caltrans equipment and four employees.

All big rig drivers and Caltrans personnel were rescued, and no injuries were reported.

"We're holding traffic eastbound at Truckee and westbound at Nevada-California state line," said Shelly Chernicki, a Caltrans spokeswoman.

Francisco Ruiz, a cook at the Truckee Diner, said motorists in the area were coping. "It was busy earlier today," said Ruiz, 18. "As the hours went by, it went slower -- like any other day."

No detour was available because other area roads are closed due to flooding or other weather-related troubles. Included are the north and southbound lanes of California 89 nearby.

California 89 south is closed because of a mudslide, Chernicki said. "We have flooding and downed trees at 89 north. Both (lanes) are closed at this time," she said Saturday. "There won't be a detour until these other routes open."

"Basically, we are in a wait mode" for I-80, Chernicki said. "Weather will be the determining factor as far as how fast we can move in and start working on the project. The material now is very unstable."

She estimated it will take about 160 dump-truck loads to clear the 1,000 cubic yards of material. Contractors are mobilizing equipment, including Granite Construction of Reno.

Other road conditions in the area also were in flux because of the weather.

Traffic, however, was moving again on U.S. 50 on Saturday evening in the region. This highway was closed from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday due to a traffic collision that downed power lines and trees near Meyers and Sly Park in Northern California.

The I-80 slide came from the westbound side of the interstate, taking out between 300 to 400 feet of center median barrier, pushing all the way and covering both the eastbound and westbound lanes, Caltrans reported.

A $5 million order has been approved to allow emergency repairs to start as soon as the slide stabilizes, which should happen once the rain lets up, Caltrans says.

The situation is so severe that Caltrans Director Will Kempton is personally traveling to the area. "I-80 is a major goods-movement corridor for the state," Chernicki said. "He is going up there to survey it."

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