Hwy. 1 to Big Sur will be closed for months as Caltrans assesses new slides, damage
Drivers looking to experience the Big Sur coast in its entirety will have to wait for months while Caltrans repairs the damage from a series of landslides along the scenic road.
On Wednesday, Caltrans crews finished assessing the latest storm-related damage to the closed stretch of Highway 1 from Ragged Point north of San Simeon to just south of Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, Caltrans District 5 spokesperson Kevin Drabinski wrote in a Thursday news release.
The biggest problem remains the massive collapse of the hillside at the troublesome Paul’s Slide location.
Drabinksi said the landslide there, which spreads across 0.4 miles of the highway, is “set for a long-term closure.”
“We already anticipated that the repair at Paul’s Slide would be a large scale endeavor on the order of months,” he told The Tribune, and that was before the latest storms.
“As weather conditions permit, crews will begin to bring down an estimated 500,000 cubic yards of material, sculpt and stabilize the slope, and repair the roadway” at Paul’s Slide, Drabinski said.
But that isn’t the only spot where saturated hillsides have either collapse onto the road or under it.
New slides reported near Gorda and Lucia
Just north of Gorda, Drabinski noted a new “failure of the highway” caused by a slumping of the hillside below the road.
Photos showed a large crack arcing from the shoulder on one side across the southbound lane and back to the shoulder on the other.
About a mile south, the infamous Mud Creek site was presenting new issues as well.
“A boulder the size of a shipping container sits on slide material just above the roadway,” Drabinski said.
Repairs at the north end of that site will include debris removal, slope stabilization and the replacement of protective netting, he said.
In 2017, work to repair a huge slide there took more than a year at a cost of $54 million.
Farther north, another new slipout occurred at Dani Creek between the entrance to the New Camaldoli Hermitage and the town of Lucia, Drabinski said, about 23 miles north of the border between San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties.
Photos of that spot showed that an entire chunk of the road wider than the southbound lane had collapsed, leaving the guardrail to span the gap with its pilings unearthed.
And another new slide also appeared Thursday just south of the Torre Canyon Bridge, 39.5 miles north of the county line.
“Each one of these slides presents with unique features,” Drabinski said. “These slides continue to be assessed, and part of that involves designing a repair strategy appropriate to the conditions at their location.”
He wasn’t able to provide a firm time frame for how long that might take.
“We are still in the process of deciding the precise nature of the repairs at these locations,” he said. “Once a repair design is determined, that drives the time it will take to make those repairs. So we do not have a time estimate for these newer slides as yet.”
Repairs to earlier slides hold up
Despite the ominous new developments, there were some rays of hope.
Since rain fell across the Central Coast on Tuesday, “Crews have cleared dozens of smaller slides and rockfall,” Drabinski said in the news release.
The good news, he said, was that “repairs made this winter at the Mill Creek slide … held up well during recent rain events, as did repairs at the Polar Star slide, one mile south of Ragged Point.”
Stretches of Highway 1 to Big Sur have been closed to traffic since severe storms slammed into the Central Coast in January.
The Polar Star slide came first on Jan. 4, followed by Paul’s Slide on Jan. 14 and the Mill Creek slide on Jan. 15.
“Updates on estimated times for reopening of each of the damaged areas will be provided as that information becomes available,” Drabinski said. “Caltrans and contracted crews will continue to work all daylight hours, seven days a week, to move forward with these repairs.”
Electronic message signs alert drivers about the closure.
For updates and additional road information, go to Caltrans social media platforms for Caltrans District 5. Those are on Twitter at: @CaltransD5, Facebook at: Caltrans Central Coast (District 5) and Instagram at: Caltrans_D5.
You can also call Caltrans at 805-549-3318 or go to dot.ca.gov/caltrans-near-me/district-5.