Caltrans District 8 officials apologized Monday for the massive backup Sunday on westbound Interstate 10 in the San Gorgonio Pass, citing a breakdown at a local concrete plant as a factor for the unannounced road work and lane closures in Banning.
, including locals and visitors from across Southern California and other states, sat in crawling traffic that backed up more than 20 miles east to Indian Avenue in Palm Springs. Some people said it took them six hours or more to drive what normally would take 45 minutes.
"The California Department of Transportation, District 8, extends their apologies to the motoring public for the lengthy traffic delays that were encountered on westbound Interstate 10 in the Eastern Desert on Sunday, February 12," Caltrans spokeswoman Terri Kasinga said in a statement issued Monday afternoon.
The original work schedule called for a "construction project to rehabilitate pavement with Portland cement concrete" in Banning, which started with lane closures at 10 p.m. Saturday Feb. 11 and was scheduled to end at 7 a.m. Sunday Feb. 12, Kasinga said.
"The concrete being utilized to make the repairs requires four to five hours to cure before traffic can be permitted to drive on it," Kasinga said.
A breakdown at a nearby concrete batch plant, in the Cabazon area, "contributed to delays in completing (the) project and reopening lanes before the work schedule ended at 7:00 a.m.," Kasinga said.
"Unfortunately, the various slabs targeted for replacement had been removed and prepared for the material before the break down at the batch plant occurred, resulting in the continued closure of lanes outside the work schedule," Kasinga said.
"Motorists expressed concern when they drove through the work zone and saw no activity by the contractor and Caltrans personnel," Kasinga said.
"The crews were awaiting the delivery of the material to finish the work and then for the new pavement to set," she said.
The work was completed well after sundown, and all westbound lanes reopened to traffic at 9:30 p.m. Sunday Feb. 12.
Caltrans "is investigating the events that led up to the incident and again extends our sincerest apologies to all who were involved, especially the motorists who were forced to endure the lengthy back up," Kasinga said. "Measures are being taken to insure that this type of situation does not occur in the future on any state highways in the Riverside and San Bernardino area."