Major roads damaged by the March 22 megastorm in Tuolumne County and Mariposa County are still closed, but Highway 132 may reopen by Friday or Saturday, and a section of Highway 49 from Moccasin to Coulterville the junction with 132 may reopen by Memorial Day, people with Caltrans and their contractors said Monday at work sites.

Caltrans subcontractor workers with wide-brim helmets toiled under sunny skies Monday paving a section of Highway 132 where the Piney Creek washout has been repaired. They poured and compacted asphalt as hot as 310 degrees Fahrenheit as it came out of their paving machine.

“It’s nice!” Tom Mayo with Mayo Construction hollered from the paving machine. “At least we got a breeze!”

Piney Creek is where March 22 storm runoff carrying full-size trees plugged and overwhelmed the existing 12-foot-diameter culvert, and tore out 40 to 50 vertical feet of road fill and the roadway itself. A missing man’s vehicle was later found downstream on Piney Creek before it empties into the reservoir called Lake McClure. The missing man was never found and he is presumed to be one of two March 22 storm fatalities in Mariposa County.

Zia Habaf, a Caltrans inspector on-site at Piney Creek, said the new culvert is the same 12 feet diameter, but this time it’s reinforced with 2 feet of concrete around it. Boulders and rocks have been placed around the new culvert as well. In addition, where Highway 132 used to dip where it crossed over Piney Creek, the road is now level over the crossing.

The goal is to have the new section of Highway 132 at Piney Creek repaved and restriped by mid-week this week, inspected, and then reopened to the public by Friday or Saturday, Rick Estrada, a Caltrans District 10 spokesman, said Monday.

The new Piney Creek crossing is about 7 miles west of Coulterville. Having Highway 132 open again after being closed nearly two months will ease concerns for many residents, commuters and visitors who have had to take time-consuming detours on backroads to get between places like the community of Don Pedro, La Grange, Don Pedro Reservoir and Coulterville, Estrada said.

Time-consuming detours will likely remain in place until Memorial Day for people who normally use Highway 49 to get between Moccasin and Coulterville. May 31 is the goal to get that section of Highway 49, most of it in Tuolumne County, repaired, repaved, restriped and open, according to Estrada.

South of Coulterville and further into Mariposa County, Highway 49 sustained even more damage, and it is taking longer to repair. The stretch from Coulterville to Bear Valley, about 12 miles north of Mariposa, is likely to remain closed for repairs and inspections until July 4 at the earliest, and perhaps mid-July, Estrada said.

The normal drive between Coulterville and Bear Valley on Highway 49 was 15 miles before the March 22 megastorm. Getting between the two towns now requires a 42-mile detour on back roads through Merced Falls and Hornitos and it can take as long as an hour.

Anybody hoping to get from Sonora to Mariposa before July 4 will need to continue to check out detours that can include a similar back road journey through Merced Falls, Hornitos, and then another storm-damaged route called Old Toll Road, to reconnect with Highway 49 outside Mariposa.

Estrada said the southern section of Highway 49 in Mariposa County is taking more time to repair because road crews are having to completely rebuild the switchbacking, slope-hugging roadway in places.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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