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Workers take off signs on newly-constructed road.

El Portal Drive is open for use after seven months of closure

on December 21, 2012

After seven months of closure, El Portal Drive officially re-opened Friday afternoon.

The opening of the road marks the completion of one of the last phases of the construction brought on by a massive sinkhole created in April 2010.

Officials believe strong rains had weakened the soil, which collapsed and left a 120-foot long by 40-foot wide sinkhole on Via Verdi roadway. No injuries were reported, but several cars were parked on the street at the time and had fallen into the hole.

Although El Portal Drive was not damaged from the sinkhole, officials advised City Council in the winter of 2011 to replace the pipe that ran under the road, as it was made of the same material and surrounded by the same soil that gave way on Via Verdi roadway.

Ken Brown helps run the bicycle shop El Sobrante Cyclery off El Portal Drive.  He said the road closure made getting to his store nearly impossible for customers who live just a few feet away.

“I’m sure it affected everyone in the area,” Brown said.

Brown said it seemed government officials could have given storeowners a better warning that they would be closing the road.

“It just seems like they didn’t really think their plan through,” said Brown. He said he received a letter announcing the road was opening that day.

Brown estimated that he lost between 25-30 percent of business during the road closure, but he said he hopes that sales will pick up before Christmas.

As crews removed the cones and signs from El Portal, a rainbow appeared, which was fitting, said one bystander, because the construction “cost a pot of gold.”

The total cost of the Via Verdi repair is $12 million, which includes the repairs to El Portal Drive, reconstruction of Via Verdi roadway, and removal of the temporary road created as an alternate route.

Associate Civil Engineer Tawfic Halaby said Via Verdi roadway should be finished in March or April, but he’s hoping it will be done sooner.


  1. Don Gosney on December 22, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I won’t get into the argument about whether the closure of El Portal Drive was the right move or not but what it did for business in this area and for the commute was horrendous.

    This community and City Council prides itself on being so green and they take a course of action that requires drivers to drive many miles out of their way to get a cross the street. The traffic backups on San Pablo Dam Road from I-80 almost to Raley’s had to be the source of way more pollutants pumped into the air than were necessary.

    I come from an industry where EVERYTHING that can be done will be done to get a damaged unit back in service. That’s because the client needs to get back to their business and when the unit is down, everyone suffers. So why is it that when a civil government repair job (or even a new construction project) is undertaken, they talk in the terms of months and even years instead of weeks?

    Aren’t we the clients who paid to have our “units” put back in operation pronto quick?

    It comes down to a matter of attitude. There was a sinkhole in the Lafayette area just a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t similar enough to compare to this one but the point here should be obvious and clear. The original schedule called for the repairs to take months but when the proper attitudes were taken and incentives were put on the table, the repair job took just nine days. Still, not trying to compare apples to oranges, this is just one of many examples showing what can be done when the people in charge understand what’s at stake and what has to be done.

    And before I forget, thank you for finally opening up El Portal Drive.

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