Work Arounds For East Bay Road Closures

The worst of this year’s record setting rainfall seems to be over and we can now all look forward to the day when the numerous road closures in the East Bay, Sonoma, Marin, and Santa Cruz Mountains will be reopened. As you know the East Bay has several critical road closure—Alhambra Valley Road, Redwood Road, Palomares, Calaveras, Canyon, Morgan Territory. Here is what I know about each and when they might be passable.

Morgan Territory
Morgan Territory Road Collapse

Morgan Territory. After several months being closed this road is now technically open with control lights over the single lane. You can read about it here. With the likelihood of significant rain very low now, slippage of the hill is likely to slow to a complete stop and then reconstruction can begin. This is a huge project that, when it does begin, is not going to be completed in a short period of time. Even during road reconstruction it will be made temporarily impassable. That said, the upper sections of Morgan Territory reportedly also sustained storm damage although not enough to shut the road down. But you should be aware that the road is in even worse condition than usual (which is to say, it’s bumpier than usual).

Canyon Bridge closure
Canyon Bridge Closure

Canyon Bridge. This is the most recent closure and in some ways the most critical. Canyon bridge is the only way to get between Moraga and Pinehurst and Redwood. It’s a bottleneck on the most popular East Bay climbing training route. It’s also used by the Grizzly Peak Century every year except this year the closure has forced GPC to cancel the century and offer only the metric, which is really a 75-mile ride, because it can be rerouted to avoid Canyon altogether. The bridge is quite old and has been known to be in need of repair for some time. But it has been subject to earth movement, probably related to the landslide on the adjacent Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail. A recent survey report revealed the bridge supports have been compromised and that the bridge is moving slightly sideways. Thus it had to be shut immediately to traffic. All traffic. Currently the bridge has chainlink fencing across the entire width on each side. If you want to read the full report, go here. Just by chance I happened to be at the bridge the other day when a hapless cyclist tried and succeeded in crossing the bridge! In his case he had no idea the bridge was shut and he needed to get through since it was late in the afternoon and he lived in Danville; the “only” choice would have been to go back up Pinehurst and go to Fish Ranch and descend on Highway 24 to Orinda. His solution was to climb partly up the chainlink fence and lift his bike over it and let it down. This is not so hard because there is a huge gap in the fencing that allows you to bring your arm down. He did the same thing at the second fence and then walked to the edge of the bridge and got under the fencing at the huge gap as the ground dropped to the creek below. Now, if the police (or Public Works) had been there, I’m sure he would have been severely chastised if not cited. In fact, on Strava one cyclist has an image of the citation he got by crossing the bridge despite the closure. The Moraga PD can’t monitor the bridge all the time but if you are caught, you may be cited. So going over the bridge is probably not a good idea (at least during daylight).

There is a second solution. Adjacent to Canyon is the Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail. It has technically been shut for well over a year because of a landslide that has not been remediated due to a complex dispute between East Bay Regional Parks District, homeowners along the trail, and the City of Moraga. In fact there is fencing closing the trail. Yet in the past year I have repeatedly seen walkers on the “closed” section of trail. So I went to investigate and found out that it is possible to use the “closed” trail to avoid the bridge. If you take the trail from Moraga until the fence, just go around it on the street to the right until it dead-ends and then take a short dirt section back to the trail, which continues to Valle Vista. From there you can get to Pinehurst. This is obviously the route that walkers have been using. That said, as more cyclists discover this cut-through you can bet that it will be shut down pronto. Bottom line: you can get through but you’ll need to deviate onto the trail. Going over the bridge itself is a lot faster but also in plain view and likely to get you in trouble (yet it is possible).

Calaveras Checkpoint
Calaveras Road Closure

Calaveras. This is the most serious closure. By “serious” I mean that the road closure at the Sunol end has even been staffed at the fencing to make sure there are no transgressors. The County seems dead-serious on stopping cyclists from crossing over and riding this road. Reportedly the earth along Calaveras is sufficiently unstable that the County absolutely wants to avoid having anyone out there. I also haven’t heard of anyone poaching this road since the closure (although at night anything is possible!) You can read the County notice here. Unfortunately there isn’t an easy cut-around even on dirt.

Palomares Before Closure Recently

Palomares. Closed-open-closed-open—which is it with Palomares?? That’s been the story all winter. There was a report after the previous closure that Palomares might be open again by May 5. Apparently that is no longer the case [although curiously, shows Palomares as currently being open]. The hillside is continuing to move and it is shut again according to Alameda County Public Works (see it here). As with Calaveras there is no cut-around.

Redwood Road aerial
Aerial of Redwood Road Failure

Redwood Road. Just looking at the road failure on Redwood you know it’s not going to be an easy repair; half the road is down a steep slope, which means the shoring is not going to be an easy job. In any case the rumor mill has it that if it stays dry for a week or so, then the County will open the remaining lane. Right now the concern seems to be continued unexpected slippage leading to an unexpected, abrupt slippage of the remaining roadway. If that is allayed, then the remaining lane may be used. Of course having two lanes would be best but I suspect we’re in for a very long wait until that occurs. Rumor has it that cyclists have been lifting their bikes over the K barriers and continuing on their merry way. I haven’t been up there since the day it closed, so this information suggests that there is no chainlink fencing and it would be easy to use the road as long as you don’t run into any road crew. Keep in mind that in a previous post I mentioned an easy alternate: if heading south, above the closure go into Chabot Park at Marciel Road and take it down to the day use area and cut off onto the Brandon trail, which is a fire road, and it will take you to the Redwood Canyon Golf Course building. From there just roll out to Redwood and you’re on your way.

Alhambra Closure
Alhambra Valley Road Closure

Alhambra Valley Road. This one is a bugabear (pun intended). The complete destruction of the roadway and culvert means that a repair is not going to be cheap. The County has already allocated $4 million with the hope that it will be reimbursed with state funding under the declared state of emergency. The Board of Supervisors approved an expedited timeline with a start date of May 1 for repairs. Whether or not the County is on schedule is unclear. In any case do not expect it to open any time soon. If we’re lucky, Alhambra Valley might reopen at some point during this summer. Note that the closure is a hard one: there is chainlink fencing completely across the road at both ends but private land on either side means that getting around it is just not possible unless you want to ride on open fields and risk trespassing.

Keep in mind that these are just the major closures in the East Bay. There are still closures in the Santa Cruz Mountains (including Skyline Blvd.!) as well as in Sonoma County.