Caltrans apologizes for Highway 101 backup from Cuesta Grade

CLARIFICATION: This story originally reported delays of 25 to 30 minutes for people taking Highway 41. That was Caltrans' estimate before the closure, but actual experiences of commuters were longer.

ORIGINAL:Caltrans has issued an apology for its roadwork closures on the Cuesta Grade on Wednesday that resulted in traffic backing up about six miles north on Highway 101 to Atascadero for most of the day.

One lane of southbound Highway 101 at the base of the grade was closed during daytime hours Wednesday through 5 a.m. Thursday as crews worked on the median barrier.

Slowed and stopped traffic resulted in at least two traffic collisions, including a three-car pileup around 2:30 p.m. near the Santa Barbara Road exit that sent a pregnant woman to the hospital. The woman didn't report any injuries but was taken as a precaution, authorities said.

The incident put the already-congested traffic at a standstill for more than an hour. After the collision, authorities requested Caltrans place signage closer to Atascadero alerting motorists of the slowed traffic ahead.

Another collision involving two cars in the same area as the first occurred around 6 p.m. Wednesday but details on what occurred was not available early Friday.

The lane closure ultimately resulted in many southbound motorists taking Highway 41 to Highway 1. However, the traffic congestion was further complicated by another lane closure the same day on Highway 41 while maintenance crews sealed pavement cracks along the highway. The work left motorists with one-way alternating traffic control from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

The state agency on Thursday issued the following apology on its traffic update website, http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist05

“Caltrans District 5 sincerely apologizes for the awful delays yesterday on the Cuesta Grade and we promise to do a better job of managing these projects.”