California

Highway 1 reopens: See how the road was rebuilt after mudslide — in photos and video

Highway 1 reopens at Mud Creek Slide near Big Sur

The first cars drive along the newly opened section of Highway 1 across the Mud Creek Slide near Big Sur Wednesday morning. The road was closed for over a year after the massive landslide wiped out Hwy. 1.
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The first cars drive along the newly opened section of Highway 1 across the Mud Creek Slide near Big Sur Wednesday morning. The road was closed for over a year after the massive landslide wiped out Hwy. 1.

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.”

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This May 22, 2017 aerial file photo shows the massive landslide along California's coastal Highway 1 that has buried the road under a 40-foot layer of rock and dirt near Big Sur, California. John Madonna

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.”

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John Madonna took this aerial photo of the Mud Creek Slide on July 17, 2017. John Madonna via Caltrans

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.”

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Crews work to rebuild a road over the Mud Creek Slide on Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

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.

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Crews work to finish up the massive seawall at the base of the Mud Creek Slide on the Big Sur Coast of California. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

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.

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An aerial photograph of the Mud Creek area of Highway 1 in Big Sur, California, on April 26, 2018. Courtesy of John Madonna

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.

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The first cars drive along the newly opened section of Hwy. 1 across the Mud Creek Slide earlier this year. Highway 1 will likely be closed at both Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide as a storm with heavy rain approaches. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

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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