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Road Crews Swiftly Tackle Damage Left by Storms : Repairs: As patching begins, early loss estimates range from $10,000 to $50,000 per city. Officials plan to seek federal aid.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As cities throughout Ventura County recover from last week’s rain and brace for more of the same, road crews are rushing to shore up crumbled streets and fill gaping potholes caused by the downpour.

Preliminary damage estimates range from $10,000 to $50,000 per city and at least $1.5 million for the county’s unincorporated area.

“Some of the back roads are still blocked with mud, so we haven’t even had a chance to fully assess the problem,” said Butch Britt, the county’s deputy director of public works.

Even before the final estimates are in, city and county leaders plan to apply for federal assistance to pay for road repairs.

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“We are going ahead with our repairs, and then we’ll ask for reimbursement,” said Alice Stoner, principal engineer for Simi Valley. “We’re not sure yet what the cost will be because we’re still taking stock of all the damage.”

As for state-maintained highways and freeways, the damage could easily run to several million dollars, said Jack Hallin, acting director of Caltrans District 7.

On California 150 near Lake Casitas, California Department of Transportation engineers are figuring out the quickest way to fix 200 feet of mountainside roadway that tumbled into a creek below.

Plans are also in the works to repair a similar collapse on curving California 23 between Moorpark and Fillmore.

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“Getting these roads fixed is a top priority,” Hallin said. “We’re going to streamline the process to get this done as quickly as possible.”

To expedite the process, Hallin said, road designers will work around the clock to complete repair plans in two weeks instead of the usual six months.

Meanwhile, more than 90 Caltrans workers are scraping mud and rocks off blocked mountain roads and shoveling a soft gravel mixture into deep pock marks that riddle California 33, California 126 and other state roads.

“What’s really terrible is when the potholes fill with water and you can’t see them, especially at night,” said Burt Rapp, Fillmore’s public works director. “When that happens, you’re in for a nasty surprise.”

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In Ventura, the city’s 24-hour pothole hot line has been ringing nonstop. Under normal conditions, the city pledges to fill any reported pothole within 24 hours.

The waiting period now could be two to three weeks, said Lyle Swaney, the city’s streets and signals superintendent.

“We got potholes coming out our ears,” Swaney said. “Everywhere you look, there’s another one.”

In the days and weeks to come, more damage could emerge throughout the county.

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Water is one of a paved street’s worst enemies, and roads across the county have taken a beating in recent days.

When major above-ground flood pools shrink to innocent-looking puddles, that water has gone somewhere.

Much of it has seeped through tiny cracks in the roadways, creating underground bubbles that slip and slide under the weight of traffic, pushing the soggy pavement every which way.

“When you’re talking about asphalt, this much water is a potential nightmare,” said Dan Greely, director of engineering for Camarillo. “We’ll need a bit more time before we know just how bad it is.”

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So far, Camarillo has suffered little road damage from the flooding, Greely said.

“We’ve been fortunate,” he said. “‘I hope our luck holds out.”

Ojai has not been as fortunate. Erosion has stripped road shoulders along Grand Avenue, Daly Road, Douglas Street and Creek Road, said Stan Moore, the city’s public works director.

“We’re going to take care of this as fast as possible,” Moore said. “If we continue to leave it, these roads could completely collapse.”

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Across the county in Thousand Oaks, the city began repairing erosion damage to a bridge on Potrero Road and to Triunfo Canyon Road at Westlake Lake.

In Simi Valley, city workers patched Tierra Rejada Road and Royal Avenue, major thoroughfares that had already suffered severe damage in the flood of 1992 and the earthquake of 1994.

“You never really finish the job of patching streets,” said John Watring, deputy public works director. “On Royal, we could spend the next several months out there patching every day.”

Both Royal and Tierra Rejada are scheduled for repaving within the next year and a half.

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Next door in Moorpark, a maze of new potholes on Poindexter Avenue has prompted the city to speed up a repaving project.

“We’re going to have to go in there and do more than just patch up the potholes,” said Ken Gilbert, Moorpark’s public works director. “What we need is a major overlay.”

Many of the repairs undertaken since the flooding are merely temporary. Long-term asphalt work will have to wait until the ground dries out, said Britt, assistant public works director for the county.

If rainfall is minimal, permanent patching could be completed in a few months, Britt said.

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“We’re ready to get things patched up pretty quick,” Britt said. “But if it storms again, all bets are off.”


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