California

Hwy. 1 to Big Sur could open even earlier than planned — and businesses need to 'get prepared'

Soar over the Mud Creek Slide in Big Sur weeks before Highway 1 reopens

Drone footage shows a birds-eye view of the Highway 1 construction across the Mud Creek Slide on the Big Sur Coast in California. Caltrans announced on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, that they expect to open the road by near the end of July.
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Drone footage shows a birds-eye view of the Highway 1 construction across the Mud Creek Slide on the Big Sur Coast in California. Caltrans announced on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, that they expect to open the road by near the end of July.

Caltrans estimated recently that Highway 1 would reopen to through traffic north of Salmon Creek in late July, but a man who’s been tracking the progress very closely and visits the site regularly says he thinks the realigned stretch of the All-American Highway could be ready a couple of weeks earlier.

Mel McColloch, president of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, is advising those whose businesses serve tourists to be prepared for a mid-July influx.

Caltrans representative Susana Cruz, who issues reports at least weekly about progress on the $54 million project, told The Cambrian she expects to reveal the expected reopening date by July 6.

She said the road would be open for two-lane traffic, with one-way traffic control “as needed.”

A massive landslide on May 20, 2017, buried and ruined about a quarter-mile of the roadway stretch that’s high on a mountainside above the shore.

Highway 1 at Mud Creek in Big Sur remains closed as “significant” amounts of dirt and rock continue to slide down the slope from above. This video taken from a Monterey County Sheriff's Office airplane shows the massive slide, which "went from bad

Since then, McColloch has toured the project site at least monthly, reporting to chamber members on the progress there.

He advised business owners in a June 21 email that “from the progress I saw on the site and new road alignment since my last visit, it would not surprise me if (the reopening) was closer to mid-July. I would encourage you to get prepared for a strong uptick in business.”

He wrote that “progress on the dirt work on the new road is near completion. The new highway road alignment has been buttressed with a large number of embankments, rocks/boulders, and large culverts, berms, steel netting, and compacted base material” and “42-inch drain pipes have been installed.”

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A year ago, more than 5 million cubic yards of dirt, rocks and other debris slid onto a quarter-mile stretch of the roadway north of Salmon Creek, burying and destroying the pavement. The hillside continued to slide for months, but crews have been working dawn to dusk, seven days a week, to reopen the internationally renowned scenic stretch of Highway 1.

Other slides had closed the Mud Creek highway stretch earlier in the winter season, but those didn’t have nearly the volume or magnitude of damage that the May 2017 slide did.

Once the road reopens, Cruz said there will still be a lot of work to do on the stretch of road that’s been realigned further inland (east). The project could continue there for more than a year, she said, because “it will take two winters for it to really settle down where it’s going to stay.”

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Take a drive across the Mud Creek Slide in Big Sur, where Caltrans is rebuilding Highway 1 after a landslide wiped out the famous roadway in 2017. (Video taken in January 2018.)

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