The closure of storm-damaged Ortega Highway – a crucial link between Riverside and Orange counties – could continue for longer than two weeks, authorities said Friday.
More than 26 miles of the curving roadway were first shut down Wednesday after crews discovered a dip in the pavement, as well as cracks.
Investigation showed a “2-foot void” underneath the asphalt where heavy rain had washed away the underlying sediment, posing a danger for developing into a dangerous sinkhole, according to Caltrans.
Engineers think the damage, which is near Gibby Road, is even more significant than first believed, a Caltrans spokeswoman told KTLA Friday morning.
And the equipment needed to assess the roadway is in Sacramento, Caltrans District 8 spokesman Terri Kasinga said.
Testing needs to be completed before a contractor can even begin working on repairing the highway, also known as State Route 74. A contractor is on standby, Kasinga said.
The eastbound highway is closed just east of Antonio Parkway/La Pata Avenue in San Juan Capistrano; westbound traffic is blocked a Grand Avenue in Lake Elsinore.
Detours are lengthy, as the roadway is the only direct connector between southern Orange County and Riverside County. Drivers must either go south into San Diego County and take the 15 Freeway, or north on the 5 Freeway onto the eastbound 91 Freeway.
On Thursday, California Highway Patrol officers at the closure were telling drivers the closure would last three weeks.
Local residents are being allowed access, and employees who need to get to the Quest Diagnostics Nichols Institute can get through with a work badge.