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Echo Summit route to Tahoe open 5 days early

Highway 50 over Echo Summit, the main route to South Lake Tahoe was expected to reopen by this afternoon, according to Caltrans on Friday. Caltrans spokesperson, Deanna Shoopman, said that she was optimistic that highway 50 would reopen today, weather permitting, five days ahead of schedule. Caltrans crews were busy paving the highway over the 7,382-foot (2,250-m) summit on Friday afternoon. Highway 50 was closed between Phillips and Meyers on May 11 for an estimated 14 days of work to replace a 70 year-old rock wall that separated motorists from a steep mountain slope. :-)

View downhill from Highway 50 near Echo Summit

The closure forced travelers to and from South Lake Tahoe to drive a 35-mile detour that added about an hour to the trip from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe.

It is hard for me to believe that this is the route that I traveled almost a month earlier, on April 9, to photograph Lake Tahoe in spring, while roads were clear and dry.

The road work was completed despite a storm from Alaska on Sunday that dropped 9 inches of snow on the construction site (causing workers to halt work TWICE), and also CANCELED Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California cycling race. Shoopman described the contractor C.C. Myers Inc. workers as “amazing.”

C.C. Myers Inc. is the contractor known for speedy work on the MacArthur Maze, Bay Bridge (1, 2, 3), and Santa Monica Freeway. The contractor was offered a $150,000/day bonus for finishing early, with a $600,000 maximum, in addition to the $1.9 million for the job. Two shifts of 25 crew members worked around the clock, in snow and cold.

Work crews removed a damaged 18-inch-tall rock wall and replaced it with a 32-inch concrete wall that is anchored to concrete slabs beneath the road. After this weekend, the reopened road will have alternating one-way traffic from Mondays through noon on Fridays and be FULLY open on weekends, including Memorial Day Weekend.

-Bill at

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