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Last Dirt Road In State Highway System Closes

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Photo by @sevenphoto via LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr

Photo by @sevenphoto via LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
Deemed too dangerous by Caltrans, Route 173, the last unpaved road in the state highway system, was closed on Monday in Lake Arrowhead due to maintenance and safety concerns.

In the past 10 years, at least one person has died "falling down the steep, unguarded mountainside," reports The Sun, and to maintain the narrow road Caltrans has spent between $20,000 and $40,000 annually. "It cuts into our budget to repair the paved roadways up there which need it so badly," said a Caltrans spokeswoman.

A peaceful demonstration took place while maintenance workers close off the road with K-rails, padlocks and chains, reports The Sun. People held signs that read "Maintain Highway 173 Save lives!" The road, used for off-roading was also an unofficial evacuation route in case of a disaster.

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Built in the late 1800s, the road has withstood storms and fires and served as an access route for hauling materials from the High Desert to build Lake Arrowhead and its dam, notes The Sun. Thousands of residents reportedly used the road to evacuate the mountain in 2003 during the Old Fire.

Two steel gates -- one at the top of the mountain near Willow Creek Jeep Trail and the other at the bottom of the mountain where the road ends just below Lake Arrowhead Road -- will replace the K-rails in a few weeks. Caltrans notes that it is not an official access evacuation route, but the option of reopening the road in such circumstances remains available.