Highway 1 to Big Sur is finally open to traffic again

ktanner@thetribunenews.comJune 9, 2011 

Highway 1 between Cambria and Carmel reopened this afternoon for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists for the first time since mid-March.

Officials cobbled together a quick ribbon-cutting ceremony near Alder Creek, about 40 miles south of Big Sur, but there was little time to notify people outside the immediate area, because the goal was to get the usually busy highway open ASAP.

The serpentine, scenic route is well traveled year-round, but especially during the summer, as visitors head for Hearst Castle, Big Sur and beyond.

A series of landslides and a roadway slip-away had kept the All-American Byway closed at one spot or another since March 16, stranding visitors, residents and workers on two long cul-de-sacs for which the impassible mid-point kept switching locations.

An elated if weary Caltrans spokeswoman Susana Cruz said Thursday after the reopening, "We're so happy Highway 1 is open ... Winsor and Caltrans worked really, really hard ... Happy motoring!"

She thanked community members and business leaders for their support and patience throughout the closure. "This for them," and for the millions of people who visit the area, she said.

In a $5 million project that received emergency permits from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and California Coastal Commission, Tim Winsor and his Winsor Construction crew from Cambria had worked to scrape the goo and rocks off the cliff-hugging roadway.

As Charlie Hench, resident Caltrans engineer, told Winsor in an e-mail Wednesday, "Everybody did a real good job. Thank you very much."

Some slow-down areas remain along the 100-mile stretch of scenic highway, including at Rocky Creek at the north end of Big Sur, with a stoplight reversing one-way traffic. That was where part of the highway literally vanished into the sea, and permanent repairs there will be under way for some time.

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