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2 Years Later, Santa Cruz County Struggles With 2016 Storm Repairs

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY (KPIX 5) -- The winter storms of 2016 and all of the damage they caused were the most expensive in the history of Santa Cruz County.

County officials say they have the $125 million they need to make repairs, but two years later, much the work hasn't been touched.

The extraordinarily wet winter in 2016 caused such extensive damage throughout Santa Cruz County that leaders cautioned that it could take years for them to make repairs. It turns out those leaders were right; two years later and only now is county getting to some repairs that officials describe as "an emergency."

County spokesperson Jason Hoppin says winter storms two years ago caused so much damage there just hasn't been enough time or people to make all of the needed repairs.

"It's as frustrating for us sometimes as it is for the residents," said Hoppin.

Every push pin on a map of the region represents a stretch of damaged road. At the peak, there were more than 200 trouble spots.

Some -- typically, the ones with the greatest damage -- were repaired first. But dozens of others remain largely untouched.

"We've done several dozen. But we do have a long way to go. We're not even halfway done, I would estimate," admitted Hoppin.

In many of the areas where the road was partially washed out, only a single lane of traffic remains. The slow pace of repairs has left many drivers frustrated.

"Because I live up here, I really feel it. I just don't think they're doing it as quickly as they need to," said area resident Randi Warren.

Drivers said they also worry about those one-lane roads in the event of a fire or other emergency.

"The population has grown immensely, especially when Silicon Valley boomed. And there's still only one or two ways out," said local Robynne Nunns.

With rain back in the weather forecast, the county says they are working as quickly as they can on a backlog of projects that threatens to bury them.

"There is that risk," said Hoppin. "If we back these storms up year after year, we're going to end up with a permanent state of disrepair on our roads."

County leaders said from the outset it could take up to five years to get some of this work done. That means given the slow progress of the past two years, local residents could see three more years of construction. And that's presuming there isn't another wet winter that creates a whole new host of problems.

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