NEEDLES — Ground has now officially been broken for work on Needles Highway.
Delegates from San Bernardino County, as well as city officials, were present at the groundbreaking. “We are excited to get this project started. It’s been a long time coming,” said Kevin Blakeslee, San Bernardino County Director of Public Works. “Before we got started on the project we had to get environmental checks from the federal and state governments. We had to make sure that the location passed the cultural checks so it took a lot of time. Ultimately, it passed all the checks and we had enough funding to start construction on this part of Needles Highway.”
Blakeslee said that this is the first phase of the restoration of Needles Highway. Fencing to keep any desert tortoises outside the work area has been erected along the route; a deep trench has been excavated along the uphill side; barricades have been erected closing what’s left of the paved surface down to one lane and routing northbound traffic onto the dirt shoulder as far as National Old Trails Road, which can, in turn, be navigated to reach points farther north.
“We have set the temporary detour primarily to keep the public safe and the workers safe,” said Joe Schweitzer of the San Bernardino County Transportation Department.
“We appreciate the public being patient with us while we work on this portion of Needles Highway,” said Blakeslee.
One of the local business owners whose business resides on the Needles Highway portion that is being restored is the River Front Cafe in Rainbo Beach Resort.
“I have lost some business because of the construction in this area,” said Cindy Sorci, restaurant owner. “However, I am very happy that the road is getting done because this is the road that I work on and the road that I live on.”
The city of Needles is excited about the start of this phase of the project as well.
“It’s been long overdue because I think they’ve been talking about repairing this road for about 20-25 years,” said Rick Daniels, city manager. “We are going to take advantage of the road being opened to run sewer and water crossover lines so we don’t have to re-open the road once it’s finished,” Daniels continued. “This is going to bring in new residential and commercial buildings to north Needles.”
Blakeslee said that they don’t have a schedule of when the road is to be finished because it depends on the weather cooperating. Blakeslee said that when the temperatures get below 50 degrees Fahrenheit they can’t pour asphalt.
“When this phase is finished I think people will enjoy driving on it and it will encourage business between both of the communities (Laughlin and Needles),” said Blakeslee.