California residents and tourists can again enjoy scenic Highway 1 up and down the Big Sur coast.
Caltrans announced Tuesday that there would be a “soft opening” at 10 a.m. Wednesday, with a public ribbon-cutting ceremony to follow at 11 a.m. Friday at Ragged Point Inn. And the agency reopened Highway 1 about 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, according to a tweet from the agency.
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A section of the iconic highway has been closed since a massive landslide in May 2017 demolished a stretch of road. The Mud Creek Slide area has been the last closure point along the nearly 100-mile stretch of highway between Cambria and Carmel.
John Madonna Construction of San Luis Obispo was hired as the contractor for the $54 million project, a rebuilding effort in which crews worked dawn to dusk seven days per week.
The closure has been tough on Businesses, tourism at Hearst Castle and area residents.
Here’s a look back at the massive undertaking to reopen the highway — in photos and video:
Before and after
Some of California’s most breathtaking coastal scenery was wiped on May 20, 2017, when a nearly half-mile segment of Highway 1 was swallow up by a falling mountain. Meticulous planning and around-the-clock work led officials to build a new road across the 6 million cubic yards of landslide material.
On Wednesday, travelers will be able drive on the All-American Highway once again.
Here’s where Caltrans started, back in 2017:
May 22, 2017
Half of the 6 million cubic yards that rumbled down the mountain in May 2017 landed directly on top of the old roadway, covering the road and piling into the ocean in a semicircle peninsula. Boulders were then piled along the newly formed coastline, with the goal being to fortify against erosion, John Madonna said at that time.
“It’s an awesome sight,” Madonna said. “It’s once in a lifetime to be able to work on a project that’s this monumental, this significant.”
July 17, 2017
Not long after the slide, workers were in a constant battle with new debris coming down the hillside.
Resident engineer Rick Silva would bring crews up to the site at 5 a.m. every morning to clear the road, but the next day, it would look as if nothing had been done.
“We called it Groundhog Day,” Silva said. “It was the same everyday.”
Jan. 4, 2018
Silva said in January the project — which was then pegged as a $40 million renovation — involved five haul trucks, three loaders, five excavators, four dozers and “six or seven other random pieces of equipment.”
He estimated about 20 workers were out there every day.
“They took a couple of days off at Christmas and a couple of days around New Year, but they’ve been working pretty much seven days a week,” Silva said. “A couple of guys have 100 days in a row working.”
March 10, 2018
Officials constructed a rock seawall that rises 36 feet above sea level — or 10 feet higher than originally planned. In March, Augie Wilhite of John Madonna Construction estimated that 165,000 tons of rock had been placed in the embankment at that point, with another 30,000 to 40,000 still to come.
The rocks were brought to the site at a rate of 46 to 50 truckloads a day, Wilhite said, from Cambria and Porterville.
April 26, 2018
After working on the massive Mud Creek Slide site for nearly a year, Caltrans set a target date for reopening Highway 1 of mid-September. Crews were able to move up the reopening date by two months, with Highway 1 now including new safety features such as embankments, berms, rocks and netting.
July 18, 2018
Caltrans reopened Highway 1 about 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, as vehicles traveled on a freshly paved road for the first time in more than 14 months.
Caltrans District 5 spokeswoman Susanna Cruz called the project “really Herculean efforts.”
“It’s massive,” Cruz added. “It’s the biggest slide even in all of Big Sur history.”
While construction was taking place, motorists traveling north to Big Sur through San Luis Obispo County were forced to take Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, a roundabout and far less scenic route.
On Wednesday, Cruz and other Caltrans employees waved vehicles through the now-open road.
Cars speeding by honked and passengers waved in celebration.