Road crews in Shasta County are doing the seemingly impossible, moving mountains. It’s part of a project to reduce the number of fatalities on highway 299 between Redding and Weaverville.
Changes to the Buckhorn Grade of highway 299 couldn't come soon enough, the 8 mile stretch of road saw more than 220 accidents between 2005 and 2009.
“This is a safety project, we are straightening out approximately 17 curves and reducing it to about 9,” said Vance Hackney, a CalTrans Assistant Resident Engineer.
But de-curving an 81-year-old road built on the side of a cliff is no easy task.
“Well you have to cut the mountains out, straighten the road out, and fill in the valleys,” said Hackney.
Since may crews have been using heavy equipment to level mountains. But the dirt does not leave the site, it’s immediately re-purposed down a nearby 300 foot canyon. After months of dumping loads, this particular site is now only 80 feet below road level.
“This fill when it is all completed will take approximately 115,000 cubic yards of material… that's that mountain right there and a little bit more,” said Hackney.
By removing the mountains and valleys, a straight and level surface is created. A CalTrans rendering of the road shows it is currently among the windiest. But when the project is completed in a year, the road will be so much safer that CalTrans has decided to increase the speed limit.
“They are going to notice a reduced travel time, safer highway and hopefully a prettier ride with less car sickness,” said Hackney.
CalTrans says all of this work should be completed by next October. These things take quite a bit of time because the road CalTrans still needs to keep this section of highway open while the new road is being installed.