Highway 121 is at least several months and $5.5 million away from once again having both lanes open north of Wooden Valley Road between Napa and Lake Berryessa.
A section of the northbound lane on the narrow, two-lane road slipped a half-dozen feet during early March storms. The road reopened on March 25 with temporary signals in place to alternate traffic in the southbound lane.
Caltrans design teams are working on repair plans for the northbound lane, agency spokesman Vince Jacala said Wednesday. The preliminary cost estimate for the project is $5.5 million.
Caltrans selected Gordon N. Ball Construction of Alamo to do the repair work. Once a design is approved, crews will start work on a construction job that could take two to three months to complete, Jacala said.
“They have to shore it up and build back the roadway,” Jacala said.
That leaves the key question of when design work will be ready and the finish line for the Highway 121 repairs will be in sight.
“I don’t have the timing on that,” Jacala said.
The stricken northbound lane slipped 6 or 7 feet below the southbound lane, with a temporary concrete rail now separating them. Caltrans in late March installed metal beams and built a retaining wall to prevent further erosion.
Jacala said the slide is no longer moving a significant amount.
This rural stretch of Highway 121 is far from being the busiest road in Napa County. It handles an average of 1,800 autos daily. By contrast, the section of Highway 121 in Napa that is central Imola Avenue handles 27,000 vehicles daily, according to Caltrans.
But Highway 121 near Circle Oaks is the key link between rural communities near Lake Berryessa and the city of Napa. Circle Oaks has about 180 homes and Berryessa Highlands has about 350 homes.
Before Caltrans stabilized the slide, both lanes of Highway 121 were closed for a couple of weeks. Residents in Circle Oaks and Berryessa Highlands had to detour on Highway 128 past Lake Hennessey and down the Napa Valley to reach Napa.
Given that, Berryessa Highlands resident Stu Williams has no complaints about a wait that might reach five minutes at the temporary traffic signal. He’s happy that Caltrans is alternating traffic in the southbound lane.
“The traffic light is working fine,” Williams said. “It’s the lesser of two evils. The big evil was going around and taking an extra 45 minutes to go to Napa.”