TCB Road Closure

Caltrans TCB Landslide 2

Caltrans, State and Local Officials at TTC Meeting

On March 20, at the Topanga Library, the Topanga Town Council held a public meeting in which almost 100 people shared their concerns with Caltrans and government representatives over Topanga Canyon Boulevard’s partial road closure. Caltrans and officials listened to the frustrations people have with the extended closure and its serious effect on daily lives. Town Council President Carrie Carrier thanked the many people who came together to make this community meeting possible. Thank yous went to the many Caltrans staff for their presence and support, including PIO James Medina. A special welcome and thank you went to Davis Han of Senator Ben Allen’s Office, Sophia Soudani of the 3rd District Supervisor’s Office, Nancy Frawley and Araceli Curiel of Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin’s Office, Officer Casey Ramstead of CHP, and Chief Drew Smith of Los Angeles County Fire Dept. A heartfelt appreciation went to Topanga’s community members who made last night’s meeting very productive by sharing their concerns and suggesting possible solutions to the challenges we face.

MEETING TAKE-AWAYS 

The #1 agreement is to get TCB opened ASAP.  Until the road reopens, the current issues are focused on traffic management and safety. Since Caltrans cannot say how long TCB will be closed from Grandview to PCH, the current top priorities are:  finding ways to re-direct commuter traffic away from the Fernwood area, get traffic control at Tuna and PCH, direct traffic to local businesses, and have better communication from Caltrans. Another priority discussed is to get as much funding as possible to expedite the recovery process. The Fire Department is aware of fire evacuation issues and has it included in their plans. More to come on preparing for potential fire events this season. What was fully agreed on was that county and state reps, law enforcement, Caltrans, and residents need to have open collaboration in order to successfully implement solutions discussed at the meeting. All the special presenters committed to updating the Town Council and TCEP with ongoing updates.

Because many of you and others are using Tuna and Las Flores as an alternate route, serious concerns are developing regarding safety and traffic backup. Parents are struggling to get their school-age children to class safely and on time. Folks are having trouble getting to work.  Businesses are suffering from diminished traffic flow. Some neighborhoods are taking the unfair share of traffic congestion. The Town Council has complied all questions and comments from the meeting, prior emails and phone calls, and have given this information to the respective representatives. Caltrans, the county, and the state have heard your concerns and are committed to finding solutions.

TCB Closure Map

Below are the main topics of conversation discussed at the Topanga Town Council meeting:

  • TCB:  Caltrans is reporting that landslides continue around mile marker 1.8 and deems it to still be very unstable and active. A survey crew (geologist) is standing by to analyze the hillside once it is safe for them to do so. In the meantime, Caltrans secured drone footage today and is still examining the feed. As they were collecting info from the drone, they witnessed rocks falling — some as large as two feet in diameter. They also noticed new seeps have appeared, typically indicating that the slide has shifted creating new pathways for water to flow. Another observation was the possibility of more scarps about 40 feet above the head scarp. Caltrans can confirm the situation once the drone photos are processed. It has been noticed that the netting previously placed on TCB hillsides has done a good job at controlling additional land/rock slides. Long-term solutions could be more wire netting or a wall.  A total of $2.8 million was approved today for road repairs. At this time, it is impossible to determine when TCB will be reopened—it could be weeks or months for the repairs to be completed. Regarding one-lane directed traffic flow — it cannot be done safely at this time. If this condition changes, a notice will be pushed out to the community.
  • TUNA:  Find more funding for traffic control at the bottom of Tuna during the morning rush hours so drivers can safely turn left onto PCH. Law enforcement has had limited presence at that location but not in the manner needed to clear the miles of backup on Tuna or to ensure safe entry onto PCH. Representatives are looking into ways to find additional funding for law enforcement so Caltrans can initiate a private contract with CHP.  CHP will see if Malibu’s officers can assist with Tuna/PCH.  It was also asked if a temporary traffic signal light could be installed at Tuna/PCH. Another idea that was expressed was to have Tuna be one-way up the hill in the afternoons — a very complicated measure, but worth being considered.  *The Town Council asks that motorists take caution when traveling the ‘back roadways’ and to NOT direct traffic yourselves.  STAY SAFE.  Call 9-1-1 to report any life-threatening emergency.
  • PCH:  A request was made to see if it is possible to reverse lanes by using the median on PCH to ease traffic.  Caltrans and the PCH Task Force met today to discuss many options.  Caltrans has installed fencing on top of the K-rail on PCH and moved it back to open the left northbound #1 lane south of Big Rock Drive.  At this moment, the median will not be used for through traffic.  Unknown duration when the hillside will be determined stable.
  • LAUSD:  Need help to coordinate with local schools to not penalize students for being tardy and see if there are alternatives to students not having to spend up to six hours a day traveling to and from school. There were discussions to see if early dismissal is an option. Residents and the Topanga Town Council are working together to find answers. A letter is being drafted to send to Paul Revere Middle School and Palisades Charter High School. Follow-up calls to be made next week.
  • SIGNAGE:  Caltrans is also installing more portable signs at 14 locations along SR-1 (PCH) and U.S. Highway 101 to alert motorists about closure/road work on SR-27.  The Town Council is confirming if all the signs closest to Topanga’s entry points include the language, “Topanga Town Open.” Need to come up with a plan to help businesses.  Topanga Chamber of Commerce is taking the lead.  In the meantime, we ask all Topangans to shop and dine local — a lot!  Visit them frequently, especially during this time when our businesses need us the most.  Invite your neighbors to join you. We don’t want our mom-and-pop stores to close!
  • REPAVING TCB:  Caltrans expects to repave TCB in Topanga in about one year.  They are currently starting the road project near the 118 freeway and moving south to PCH.  Caltrans and the Town Council will have meetings prior to the work being done and push out the information to the community as it becomes available.

All the participants care about these challenges and want to make things better. The one thing that everyone agrees upon, is to get Topanga Canyon Blvd opened as soon as it is safe to do so.  Note that all the suggestions presented at the Town Council meeting will be considered, but all may not be implemented.  The Council will publish any findings as soon as we receive them.

TO RECEIVE TIMELY UPDATES

CALTRANS:  Those at Caltrans have promised to give daily status updates regarding all road closures in our area and are committed to getting the roads open as soon as humanly possible.  Real-time traffic information can be found at http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/ and you can get road updates on X (formerly Twitter) at @CaltransDist7.  DPW is responsible for roads other than the highways.  You can report county road issues here.

TCEP:  The volunteers at TCEP have dedicated themselves to providing the community with verified and timely updates.  You can get the updates via TCEP’s EMERGENCY STATUS website page and on their X page (formerly Twitter).

TOPANGA TOWN COUNCIL:  Summary updates will be provided on OneTopanga.com. Current updates can be seen on OneTopanga.com’s X page (formerly Twitter) and Facebook.  At this Town Council meeting, other business was discussed and community reports were given and will be posted soon.

AN INTERESTING RETROSPECTIVE

Every Topangan’s life is desperately altered when emergencies hit our town, especially when fires burn around us or our main road is closed or damaged from floods.  Many of you have faced major storm-related events and road closures dating back many decades. In The Topanga Story, a book published by the Topanga Historical Society, there are shocking and heroic stories of emergency incidents that are interspersed among happier celebrated events in our historic town. Below are a few notable flood-related snippets from this wonderful book, beginning around page 239.  Purchase and treasure your own copy here.

In March 1938, the entire boulevard was washed away on the lower grade after 8.5″ of rain.

In 1955, while realigning TCB, 3 miles to the beach, the boulevard was prone to rockslides. Motorists with radio transmitters were asked not to transmit while passing through the work area to avoid the possibility of accidentally setting off the dynamite. Heavy rains poured down during construction causing closure of the boulevard because of a mudslide that completely covered Fernwood Pacific.

Probably the worst flood of the century hit in February 1980, totally washing out the entire road below the grade causing many slides and washouts throughout the entire length of Topanga Canyon Boulevard and its connecting roads. The road to the coast had to be completely reconstructed and was closed for 6 months. The new water main along the boulevard took much longer to replace.

After El Nino rains hit the canyon in the winter of ’94-’95, TCB was washed out again, when Owl Falls (Jalan Jalan property) thundered down and undermined the road, taking a 50-foot section of the boulevard. At the end of the day, TCB was damaged in a dozen places and Old Topanga was a wreck.

In February 1998, El Nino rains drenched the canyon again causing washouts and multiple road closures. Most disturbing to the community, was a severe road failure on TCB near Rainbow Village that would take over six months to repair.  The adjacent businesses began to fail.

In 2004-2005, disaster struck again. This time, after a record-setting January downspout, a huge boulder fell onto Topanga Canyon Boulevard about a mile north of PCH.  It became the “shot” seen around the world as a photo of the 25-foot boulder dwarfing a fire engine appeared in major newspapers and on the internet.  Washed out to one lane, it would take months to rebuild the boulevard.  Once again, canyon businesses suffered.  The road finally completed was opened by May.

One thing about Topangans, is that we are mountain survivors and super resilient after having been tested by emergencies over the years.  We have survived worse.  But with lessons learned, better communication, and quicker response, the challenges have not been as devastating.  Though our current challenges certainly have hardship, the volunteer spirit and creative solutions in our small community help us withstand anything mother nature can throw at us. This is our goal and mantra — survive and thrive.