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Super-Fast Tracking Speeds Up Repairs On Highway 35 In Santa Cruz Mountains

SANTA CRUZ (KPIX) -- Road repairs are underway in the Santa Cruz mountains on a section of Highway 35 where 200 feet of road was wiped out earlier this year.

Getting Highway 35 back open was one of the top priorities for this district, and so fast-tracking wasn't fast enough. They went with "super-fast" tracking.

Back in February, this stretch of highway near Castle Rock Park looked like it had been hit by a meteor that left a gaping 200 foot hole in the mountain.

Highway 35 washout
Highway 35 washout. (CBS)

Now, so-called super-fast tracking has allowed Caltrans to build a bridge in months, not years. The speed at which it has happened, the agency says, is amazing.

Fast tracking is essentially designing and building simultaneously -- design a small portion, and then build that portion right away.

"You have to do that because otherwise a normal project like this you would have to design it for 6 months or longer, put it out to bid, award the bid, get to work on it," said Bob Haus of Caltrans. "This way, when you compress all those jobs into a short time frame, then you can get the road completed and open to traffic again as soon as you can."

The 70-foot wall normally would've taken a year, but got done in about half the time.

The other time saver was a construction material known as cellular concrete. It feels like Styrofoam on steroids. It's a third of the weight of fill dirt, but ten times as strong.

The mountain is made of soft loose sandstone that basically liquefies and turns into mud when it gets wet. Crews used cellular concrete to build the retaining walls and the road in a fraction of the time.

The total cost of the project is about $10 million. Super-fast tracking shaved six months to a year off the construction time, but added a couple extra million dollars onto the cost.

"It's a lot more expensive than otherwise," said Haus. "But again, that extra cost pays off because when you have a road that is completely out of commission, that's costing the community time and money."

The project will be capped off with a ribbon-cutting scheduled for mid-January.


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