Storm-damaged section of Highway 35 in Santa Cruz Mountains reopens 11 months later

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With no fanfare or ribbon cutting, Caltrans on Tuesday morning reopened a 220-foot long stretch of Highway 35 in the Santa Cruz Mountains that was wiped out by a massive mudslide during last February's storms. (KGO-TV)

With no fanfare or ribbon cutting, Caltrans on Tuesday morning reopened a 220-foot long stretch of Highway 35 in the Santa Cruz Mountains that was wiped out by a massive mudslide during last February's storms.

Residents were thrilled because they no longer had to take 45 minute detours to go to work, to run errands, or to see friends.

RELATED: Caltrans to reopen section of Highway 35 wiped out by slide near Los Gatos

Sarah Hitchcock-Glover wasted no time to take the new roadway to visit a friend down the road. She is especially happy that CalFire trucks will now have faster and easier access to battle any wildland fires that occur in this remote area.

An estimated 650 vehicles use this section of Highway 35 daily. It also provides access for visitors to get to Castle Rock State Park. The road blocks have been taken down, although warning signs at the bottom of the mountain have not that warned drivers of the 11-month-long closure.

RELATED: Report: Cost to repair Highway 35 to surpass $29.5 million

The heavy rain that pelted the Bay Area on Monday and Tuesday caused a few rocks to fall into mountain roads, but there were no reports of new slides.

The $10 million Caltrans repair project had distinct challenges. The hills are mostly composed of sandstone, which is porous. It can also give way under heavy rainfall.

RELATED: Residents near Hwy 35 washout in Los Gatos discouraging spectators

Engineers had to build three retaining walls to prevent future land movement, both uphill and downhill from where Highway 35 cuts through. A material called cellular concrete was used because it's light yet solid. Two large drain pipes will also drain runoff underneath the road bed.

While the road has been opened to traffic, crews from Disney Construction, which is not related to The Walt Disney Company, must still construct a permanent guardrail and complete the downhill portion of the drainage system. Landscaping will follow, including the planting of trees to help hold soil. About 100 trees were lost when the mudslide took out the road.

David Louie will have more on this story on ABC7 News at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Click here to follow him on Twitter.
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