Highways 74 and 243 travel restrictions to Idyllwild easing from Valle Vista and Banning

Diane Sieker photo

Idyllwild residents and local businesses will soon see the limited reopening of Highway 74 to limited 24-hour access as announced by Caltrans officials last week at a community meeting before the Labor Day weekend.

Caltrans announced at the Aug. 27 Highway 74 and 243 construction update meeting with Idyllwild residents that Interstate 10 to Highway 243 from Banning to Lake Fulmor, gateway to the mountain community, which was completely cutoff since Feb.14, will be open to some type of limited access via escort or flagging operations beginning Nov. 1. This information Tuesday, Aug. 27, brought more relief to business owners who have been suffering a severe economic downtown since the road washouts in February.

The Highway 243 project has been especially troubling to the Caltrans-contracted Ames Construction crews since the Valentine’s Day rains and subsequent rains washed out sections of ground supporting the pavement that had to be completely refilled and supported. Those repairs added to the costs of the project now estimated at $20 million.

Labor Day traffic to and from Idyllwild and Mountain Center as a result of the longer opening hours on Highway 74 saw welcomed increased traffic to the village at the end of the summer vacation period and the beginning of fall.

Caltrans also announced that by late October, crews will change the access to a 24/7 flagging operation. Currently motorists can use Highway 74 from Valle Vista to Mountain Center with escort seven days a week from 5 to 8 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to midnight.

All escort times are subject to weather changes and special repair projects. Meanwhile, all Idyllwild businesses remain open with a number of major events planned in the fall and winter.

Caltrans reminded travelers on the two highways to be “work zone alert” as maintenance and contractor crews will be in the area for the remainder of the year to restore the routes to full operational access.

They say, “Know before you go,” on the highways. To stay on top of the roadwork in the Inland Empire to Caltrans District 8 on the internet and sign up for commuter alerts. The latest information can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. To help with trip planning and traffic conditions, motorists may use QuickMap and planned lane closures.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.