As part of an extensive ongoing project to remove hazardous trees from highways 41 and 49, Caltrans spokesman Cory Burkarth said drivers should expect delays on the Coarsegold to Oakhurst section of Highway 41 the next four to six weeks.
From 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Burkarth said crews from contractor Sierra Mountain Construction, of Tuolumne, will be at work cutting down trees that threaten the area.
He said after some initially long delays, the company has worked out its issues and will keep slowdowns under 15 minutes, especially after receiving concerned calls from Mountain Area residents who regularly commute in the area.
“We are doing our absolute best to minimize the impacts on local traffic during prime driving hours,” Burkarth said. “But at the same time, this project was initiated under an emergency declaration from the governor over hazardous trees. So this isn’t a typical project, it’s an emergency project, and we feel it is of huge importance not only to our agency, but to residents in the area.”
Burkarth said since contractors did an initial count of dead trees along both highways last summer, around 2,600 had been removed by Thursday. He said since that time, the number of hazard trees has increased by around 25-30% as they continue to die off.
“We have such a large scope of work with so many trees we have to remove,” Burkarth said. “So part of this shared vision to improve safety in the area is a shared sacrifice between us and the public. These trees, we don’t call them dead trees, we call them hazardous trees because they pose a danger to everyone. And we need to get them out of there as soon as we can.”
To help plan out their commutes, Burkarth strongly encouraged drivers to visit quickmap.dot.ca.gov, a website that provide real-time updates on traffic conditions and possible delays on both computers and mobile devices. The public can also call 1-800-427-7623 for updates on highway conditions 24 hours a day, Burkarth said.
He said the work is being done in the Coarsegold/Oakhurst area because crews had to halt similar efforts in Fish Camp due to icy conditions and heavy rainfall. Once the weather clears up, Burkarth said that work will continue.
Burkarth said the project will continue until funding is no longer available.