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Caltrans crews continue to repair sinkhole on Highway 78

Caltrans crews working on filling sinkhole on Highway 78.jpg
Melissa Mae
Caltrans crews work on filling sinkhole after a culvert collapsed under the westbound lanes of Highway 78 in Vista, Calif. on March 20, 2023.

North County commuters will need some patience, as Caltrans crews work to repair a huge sinkhole on Highway 78. The sinkhole was created when a culvert collapsed last week, closing all westbound lanes of Highway 78 between College Boulevard and El Camino Real.

In a news conference Monday, Caltrans said work on those lanes will continue through this week.

Caltrans District 11 maintenance chief Shawn Rizzutto said the torrential rains that have hit the area since November made a culvert under the freeway collapse, creating the sinkhole.


“This freeway was completed (in) 1971, so you have a number of years and these culverts have reached the end of their service life,” Rizzutto said.

The culverts are between 40 and 60 feet deep. Rizzuto said that excavation depth forced the highway lanes to close for public safety.

“It is a difficult culvert to get to, and we wanted to make sure that we got all the voids underneath the roadway removed so we don’t have this problem in the future and we get a long life culvert. We’re expecting to get 100 years out of this culvert replacement,” Rizzutto said.

After further inspection, a total of four culverts need to be replaced.

Crews have been working 24 hours a day and will continue to work even through the rain. Unfortunately, the rain may cause delays.


“Whenever we're excavating, the mud is really slick. It's really hard for the workers to get in and around, and then the equipment can't really move the equipment,” Rizzutto said. “So depending on how much rain it may or may not delay us, but anytime you have inclement weather, it's just not an ideal working situation.

The total cost for all repairs is estimated at about $20 million.

Once the west bound lanes are repaired, Caltrans plans to close all eastbound lanes for more repairs.

Rizzutto acknowledged the inconvenience to commuters.

“I wanted to thank the community for their patience while we complete this work. We know this is a major inconvenience to your daily commute going to your job and picking up your children from school so again thank you for your patience and understanding,” Rizzutto said.

Caltrans does not currently have an estimated completion date of Highway 78 repairs.

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