As many readers know, flash flooding in September 2014 destroyed dozens of bridges and made huge stretches of old Route 66 in California’s Mojave Desert impassable for months.
Fifteen months later, all of Route 66 in the desert is open except for a section west of Ludlow, California — which can be bypassed via the north frontage road — and a more-obscure alignment of Route 66 near Essex, California.
The latter refers to an 11-mile stretch of National Trails Highway from the Mountain Springs Road exit of Interstate 40 to Goffs Road. It served as Route 66 from 1931 to 1972.
A reader passed along a rumor he’d heard the road would be closed permanently because no one lives on it, so there was no incentive to repair it.
I emailed the San Bernardino County Department of Public Works, which maintains old Route 66 through the desert. Here is the reply I received from deputy director Brendon Biggs:
This section will remained closed due to a severely damaged bridge. We have submitted for Federal funding for replacement and are waiting for the approvals to start design and environmental stage. This process can take a few years but we will work to expedite it as much as possible,
So it seems Route 66 from Mountain Springs Road to Goffs Road may remain closed for a few years, but it eventually will be repaired.
(A map of road closures in San Bernardino County may be seen here.)
The reason this stretch of road remains obscure is because the majority of Route 66 travelers take the Goffs Road alignment through Goffs, California, and the interstate oasis of Fenner, California, before it reconnects with National Trails Highway north of Essex.
So the closing of National Trails Highway to Mountain Springs Road will persist. The repairs and reopening likely will happen, however, because the California Department of Transportation wants a detour if a wreck closes westbound Interstate 40 in that area.
(Image of a closed National Trails Highway courtesy of Nick Gerlich)