Heavy rains last week caused road closure in Del Mar

DEL MAR — Traffic is flowing a bit smoother on Camino del Mar, with one lane open in each direction after a Jan. 7 bluff collapse completely shut down all southbound passage on the roadway between the Del Mar Heights Road/Fourth Street intersection and Carmel Valley Road.

The one-week closure was in response to the erosion of a section of the bluff in Anderson Canyon, which sloughed off due to heavy rains.

“Nothing indicates that it was nothing other than Mother Nature and gravity taking down the hillside,” Public Works Director Eric Minicilli said. “This is not something we saw coming.”

No one was injured, no homes were damaged and the roadway remained intact.

However, the impacted area is directly adjacent to the western edge of the pavement, which forced the shutdown. Additionally, a section of an underground storm drain pipe on the west side of Camino Del Mar is damaged and a gas transmission main may need to be relocated.

Crews rerouted the storm water flows that used the impacted pipe and worked to protect other utility pipes in the immediate vicinity.

“We won’t know the extent of the problem until we tear back the roadway,” Minicilli said Jan. 11. “This week’s work is all about discovering the extent of the collapse, letting the engineers in there and using that information to devise the final fix.

“We’ve got to see how far back the landslide goes,” he added. “Right now we can’t even see it. It goes back some distance from the side of the roadway.”

The heavy rains initially prompted the city to shut down both lanes of Camino del Mar between Del Mar Heights and Carmel Valley roads, but one northbound lane was opened within hours.

For about a week vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians could not use the southbound lanes. All traffic was diverted back to the freeway.

“We’re having issues with some of the bicyclists obeying the detour,” Minicilli said. “For motorists it’s easy.

“For bicyclists it’s kind of tough because they’ve got to go up a big hill,” he added. “They’ve got to go up Del Mar Heights Road and they don’t like that. But when that opens up it will allow bikes down that way so it will make it easier.”

The two northbound lanes were converted to one lane going in each direction on Jan. 13.

Work to determine the level of damage was expected to be complete by Jan. 15.

“Until we find out the extent of the problem we’re not going to have much to say because it could be a big, big problem for us or it could be a pretty quick problem,” Minicilli said.

The slide was reported by resident Tim Whitcomb, who called the Sheriff’s Department after seeing a 25-foot hole on the side of the bluffs. Law enforcement, in turn, contacted Minicilli.

Minicilli said it could be at least a month before the southbound lanes reopen.

He estimated the cost of the repairs could be about $1 million.

He said the city will seek emergency reimbursement funds, including those available as a result of Gov. Jerry Brown declaring a state of emergency following this year’s predicted El Niño storm conditions.

The storm also knocked out power temporarily Jan. 7 on Stratford Alley between 10th and 11th streets.

An updated damage report and cost estimates are expected at the Jan. 19 City Council meeting.

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