Swinging the gates open after five years of closure is Caltran's Gary Ratliff during grand-opening ceremonies of Angeles Crest Highway (SR-2) at the Vincent Gap Vista Point in Angeles National Forest near Wrightwood on Wednesday, May 20, 2009. (Raul Roa/San Gabriel Valley News)
They became the first travelers to use the scenic stretch of mountain road since a rock slide in 2005 closed the highway about 12 miles west of Wrightwood.
Also known as State Route 2, Angeles Crest Highway opened in 1956 and stretches 66 miles from La Canada Flintridge to State Route 138 in San Bernardino County. With its official re-opening Wednesday, motorists, hikers, tourists and locals can now once again enjoy the idyllic route.
"It's always been a very popular roadway, and it's always been a roadway that people go out of their way to find," California Highway Patrol Capt. Jerry Flavin said at the opening ceremony. "This is a destination point for all over the country and perhaps the world."
The storm caused extensive damage in 17 different sites along a 10-mile stretch of the highway, from Islip Saddle to Wrightwood. After the section of highway was closed, another storm in 2006 battered the road and delayed repair efforts.
The entire repair project cost $10.5 million and was funded by the Federal Highway Administration's Emergency Relief Program.
The project required the construction of a $2.6 million concrete bridge, which is designed for rockslides to flow beneath. Constructing it was "unusually difficult," Caltrans District 7 Director Doug Failing said.
The third largest bridge of its kind in the world, according to Caltrans, the bridge was built along a 75-percent mountain slope.
"It should prevent another washout like we had four years ago," San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzefelt said.
Transporting the girders to construct the bridge was particularly difficult because of the mountainous terrain and high altitude of the highway.
The road's closure, coupled with the recession, did significant damage to local businesses in Wrightwood, a small resort town of about 3,800 people, said Wrightwood Honorary Mayor Robin Treloar.
"Here in Wrightwood, we depend on and need the tourism and this will offer a better flow of traffic," Treloar said.
Flavin noted that a moratorium on big rigs along Angeles Crest remains in place. Three-axle trucks were banned from the highway after a tractor trailer lost control last month and plowed into several cars and businesses in La Canada Flintridge, killing a father and his daughter.
"You won't see big rigs on this road and if you do we'll handle it," Flavin said.
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