Route to Idyllwild to Stay Shut for Months Due to Storm Damage

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A major storm left a gaping hole in State Route 243 near Lake Fulmor on Feb. 14, 2019. (Credit: County of Riverside Emergency Management Dept.)

A major storm left a gaping hole in State Route 243 near Lake Fulmor on Feb. 14, 2019. (Credit: County of Riverside Emergency Management Dept.)

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A scenic highway leading to the Southern California mountain resort of Idyllwild will remain closed for months as crews repair collapsed lanes caused by winter and spring storms, officials said.

The California Department of Transportation said there’s no projection for when the heavily damaged State Route 243 will reopen, and it could stay shut until next year, the Press-Enterprise reported Monday.

Workers have to rebuild a section of a mountain slope that gave way beneath the roadway during a February downpour, said Ali Taha, a Caltrans transportation engineer.

Perched high in the San Jacinto Mountains, Idyllwild and neighboring communities are popular retreats for visitors from Southern California’s metropolitan areas.

Another way in, State Route 74, was also closed for a time after major storms in February and May. Caltrans this month started allowing mountain access on the 74 with pilot-vehicle escorts.

Alternative routes to Idyllwild are long and circuitous. The twin closures cut the town off from communities down the hill, saddling students with lengthy bus rides to high school classes in Hemet and siphoning away half of Idyllwild shops’ and restaurants’ business.

The reopening of the 74 eased merchants’ frustration and provided a glimmer of hope for a rebound in the summer tourist season, the newspaper said.

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