Residents welcome bridge's return
REPAIRS: The Pechanga Creek span, washed out by flooding last week, is finished two days early.
January 20, 2005
By LYLE SPENCER - The Press-Enterprise
TEMECULA - Sooner than expected - and to the delight of residents - Pala Road was reopened late Wednesday.
More than a dozen cars were waiting when the roadway over the Pechanga Creek south of the Pechanga Casino finally returned to service at 5:35 p.m.
"It reminded me of the Indy 500 with all those cars lined up," said Fred Perkins, owner of McLaughlin Engineering & Mining of Temecula, the firm hired by the county to repair Pala Road.
Just five days earlier, there had been nothing left of the roadway at its northern edge where it connects with Pechanga Parkway.
Washed away by storms, the closure of the thoroughfare caused isolation and inconvenience for residents of an estimated 400 homes in the area stretching between the Pechanga and Pala casinos.
Perkins' firm went to work on Friday. The job was finished two days earlier than the county requested, McLaughlin officials said.
"We had 10 to 12 guys working 12 to 18 hours a day," Perkins said. "Some nights we didn't get out until 10 o'clock - and we started at 6 a.m. It was important to the community to get it done quickly."
Perkins credited operations manager Roy Valadez with organizing and driving the project, "making it flow smoothly from every detail." Valadez, a Redhawk resident, presided over the final touches on Wednesday: paving the road, striping it and waving smiling motorists through.
"The county's desires were to have the project completed by Friday evening," Valadez said. "I told Fred we'd pave Wednesday at noon. I had everything blocked out and planned. The county thought it was optimistic, but I felt we could get it done.
"The guys did a great job. The project got bigger as we went along, and we weren't without a problem or two. There were two Verizon cables that shifted during the flooding - two 200-pair lines that feed this whole area. They're in there somewhere."
He pointed to four 6-foot culverts constructed of pipe, massive rocks and cement, designed to provide a sturdier foundation against future storms.
Locals were relieved to see the road operational again.
"We were without electricity one day and stranded for two days," Sherry Lewis said. "I have four kids, and they couldn't get to school.
"When Pala Road was finally accessible down toward the Pala Casino, I tried taking them to school by the freeway, but it was a 40-minute ride each way. That lasted two days. Luckily, my carpool friend Lisa really helped us out."
Lisa Bowls, who has two children and lives near Pechanga Resort & Casino, was picking up the Lewis children at Great Oak High School after a walkway across the creek was cleared by the county.
"It's so nice to see the sun again - and everything back to normal," Bowls said, grinning.