Rain lets up, problems remain for Highway 17

The rain may have let up, but major problems remain on Highway 17. CHP opened one southbound lane late Tuesday but both northbound lanes are closed following a massive mudslide near Vine Hill Road.
Caltrans is using heavy equipment to stabilize the hillside. CHP is hoping to open a northbound lane but advise commuters heading from Santa Cruz to San Jose to take alternate routes just in case.

Caltrans crews are working to remove rocks and mud covering the northbound lanes of Highway 17 near Vine Hill Road. It’s the largest mudslide on Highway 17 this winter.

“It’s about 100 dump truckloads that someone just decided to dump over the hill at once,” said Caltrans Resident Engineer Devin Porr.

Given the slide's configuration, Caltrans plans to bring in a specialized excavator Wednesday to safely access the slide and remove debris from the top down.

“We are dealing with the fact that it's still raining, the size of the slide, the terrain, the traffic,” said Porr.

At 10 a.m., the mudslide shut down Highway 17 in both directions. Half of the mountainside came crashing down filling the northbound lanes and spilling into the southbound lanes. The mud went underneath a pickup truck, flipping it over the center divide. The driver wasn't hurt. This is the same location of another mudslide last month that damaged a news van.

“I’m feeling frustrated,” said Alissa Powell of Santa Cruz. “It comes with the territory of working over here but it's been so beyond awful this year,” said Powell.

Powell lives in Santa Cruz and works as a teacher in San Jose. She’s inconvenienced the fourth time this year with the highway shut down.

“We have had a bunch of rain,” said Alissa Powell of Santa Cruz. “I use to think it was for the common good but now it feels like just a pain.”
CHP is encouraging drivers heading northbound to take Soquel road to Summit Road and allot an extra hour for the morning commute.

“We are on high alert,” said Officer Trista Drake of Santa Cruz CHP. “Everyone is working. Caltrans will be working around the clock as well as county roads and CHP. Hopefully nothing else like this happens but it's hard to say.”

Caltrans says when the northbound side is reopened, it may not be the same traffic patterns. A southbound lane will likely be used for northbound traffic. They hope to open all lanes in a day or two.