Angeles Crest Highway provides a rocky commute

After weaving through rocks tumbling from the barren hillsides along the scenic Angeles Crest Highway, Danny Macias was physically shaken.

“I’m terrified,” he said Monday. “I wouldn’t go up there. There’s rock slides everywhere.”

Macias, an equipment operator for Caltrans, was among commuters using four roads reopened Monday after being closed since September because of a wildfire in the San Gabriel Mountains.

But parts of Angeles Crest Highway were covered with rocks loosened by high winds, prompting officials to shut it down Monday for a few hours.

Road plows that patrol the highway daily worked to remove the debris, but the event highlighted the instability of the region.

“There’s material coming off the hillsides every day, and that’s not going to stop,” said Bob Spencer, a spokesman for the L.A. County Department of Public Works. “What we’ve been waiting to do is complete the necessary repairs so we could open the roads to through traffic.”

Since mid-September, Public Works and Caltrans have spent nearly $20 million combined to repair parts of Angeles Crest and Angeles Forest highways, as well as Big Tujunga Canyon and Upper Big Tujunga Canyon roads, damaged by the wildfire.

The work included replacing signs, guardrails, markers, reflectors and striping, as well as cleaning debris basins, repairing drainage culverts and re-oiling pavement. Several concrete barriers known as K-rails were also placed along sections of the roads.

Angeles Crest was the only road temporarily closed Monday. The National Weather Service said light-to-moderate winds with gusts up to 60 mph were blowing through the region. Wind knocked road signs off posts and bent a metal sign.

If further inclement weather hits the area, roads will probably be closed as a precaution, Spencer said. He warned motorists to “take it easy and be cautious when they start using the roads again.”

Of Monday’s incident, Spencer said, “This is the first day, but we’re monitoring the situation very closely.”