It takes a strong team to handle a complex project like the improvements to Yerba Buena Area Road but with the many challenges, the VCPWA Roads and Transportation (VCPWA-RT) team knew it was up to the task.
Between 2018 and 2020, VCPWA-RT took on paving 15 miles of winding roads in the Santa Monica Mountains on steep, rugged terrain. The effort involved four separate construction contracts worth a total of $7.5 million and required ALL of the VCPWA-RT Design & Construction staff.
The projects consisted of placing 17,000 tons of asphalt with fiber and a rubberized chip seal, adding 13,600 feet of guardrails at 35 hazardous locations, and building new drainage improvements throughout.
Challenges at Every Turn!
The construction of this project was greatly complicated by many unusual events, including a devastating fire, flooding and erosion, a major road washout, a large rockslide, narrow roads and lack of detours, and a funding deadline, which led to project challenges.
In November 2018 before the first of the four projects was constructed, the Woolsey Fire scorched the Santa Monica Mountains, burning 97,000 acres and 1,643 structures throughout the mountains, Agoura Hills, Thousand Oaks, Westlake, and Bell Canyon. The project roads were suddenly located within bare slopes devoid of any vegetation, leaving them highly vulnerable to erosion and flooding.
Just six weeks after the Woolsey Fire, heavy rains caused extensive erosion of the bare hillsides as well as many mudslides, rockslides, and roadside washouts. The erosion heavily damaged the shoulders for several miles, requiring major roadside reconstruction and slopes rebuilt before the four projects could proceed. This was done by county road maintenance crews under urgent conditions since many residents were landlocked in the mountains.
In addition, Yerba Buena Road was made entirely impassable due to large sinkhole in the road caused by flooding from a side canyon. This was about 2.4 miles from the ocean, and cut off all passage on the north of this point. Under emergency conditions, the entire intersection of Yerba Buena Rd/Yellow Hill Road had to be reconstructed. The road was closed on February 1 and reopened on May 5, just 3 months after the washout.
The Road Ahead
The VCPWA-RT construction staff made a special effort to contact and communicate to local residents the ongoing work, even going so far as getting to know the locals on a first-name basis as they coordinated closely with them. Through this close communication, impacts to the residents were minimized and as a result, the team received many compliments and very few complaints.
With the projects being interrelated and staff fully familiar with not only the local residents and local issues, all four contracts were constructed within a single year.
Road Improvements By The Numbers
- $7.5 Million road construction project
- 4 Construction Contracts
- 17,000 tons of asphalt with fiber and a rubberized chip seal
- 13,600 feet of guardrails at 35 hazardous locations
- 15 Miles of Road
- 10 Unusual Challenges