The 101 Freeway, miles of which were transformed into a muddy, debris-filled river by the deadly Montecito mudslides, is expected to reopen next Monday, officials said.
“We’ve made tremendous progress over the last 48 hours,” Jim Shivers, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation, said Monday.
The freeway has been closed between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria since Tuesday’s heavy rains and mudslides, which left at least 20 people dead and destroyed dozens of homes.
Caltrans officials initially said they expected that the 101, which carries 100,000 vehicles through the Central Coast each day, would reopen in a matter of days. But after realizing the scope and difficulty of the cleanup, they said it would remain closed indefinitely.
The work is now focused on a remaining quarter-mile stretch of the freeway around the Olive Mill Road exit, Shivers said.
As one of the lowest points in the city, it has proved to be difficult to clear. Pumps running around the clock have been added as the water began to recede on its own, allowing workers using heavy machinery to remove the tree trunks and other objects the mudslides left in the road, Shivers added.
Once the road is clear, engineers must check the pavement and overpasses for structural safety. Signs and guardrails will have to be reinstalled and lane lines repainted, he said.
The section of the freeway around the Olive Mill Road exit was redone with concrete slabs about two years ago, Shivers said, leaving Caltrans officials hopeful that it will not have been damaged.
Caltrans crews, aided by private contractors and the Army Corps of Engineers, have been working on what began as an approximately two-mile stretch of the debris-strewn freeway.
Workers faced a daunting task that included removing vehicles abandoned in the storm, including a number of tractor-trailers.
Meanwhile, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department said Monday that a person listed as missing had been located safe in Ventura.
John “Jack” Keating, 53, had been in Carpinteria, not Montecito, when the mudslides hit, the Sheriff’s Department said.
Three people are currently listed as missing: John “Jack” Cantin, 17; Faviola Benitez Calderon, 28; and Lydia Sutthithepa, 2.
3:15 p.m.: This article was updated with authorities saying a person listed as missing had been found safe in Ventura.
This article was originally published at 1:40 p.m.