More equipment has been moved onto the site of the Mud Creek Slide rebuild site on Highway 1 with the rainy season nearly over, Cambria Chamber of Commerce President Mel McColloch said, sparking optimism over a sooner-than-expected reopening date.
McColloch is confident the dry weather will help speed up work on the project about 27 miles north of Cambria, where heavy rains in the winter of 2016-2017 a major landslide sent more than 5 million cubic yards of mud, dirt, boulders, rocks and more onto the highway and into the ocean, creating an additional 15 acres of coastline.
Since then, Caltrans has been working to construct a new highway over the top of the slide, burying the old road under tons of dirt.
Early September is the most recent Caltrans estimate for reopening the highway at Mud Creek, but McColloch said he believes the state agency “is being conservative, based on the performance of Caltrans management and contractors that I have seen over the past year, and particularly the past month.”
“I am eternally optimistic,” he added, “… If no new problems come up, they may have the highway open to one-way traffic by mid-summer.”
Caltrans said there’s “currently no public/local access through the Mud Creek area since this remains an active, emergency construction zone.”
McColloch makes monthly treks to the steep site so he can inform chamber members and the community on the conditions there. He sent his most recent email update May 1.
“The new roadway is being realigned across the landslide and is being buttressed with a series of embankments, berms, rocks, steel netting, culverts and other stabilizing material,” he wrote. “… Construction of the new fill for the new road alignment started in early February and is now approximately 55 percent completed. There are five additional heavy dirt carriers hauling fill dirt.”
He said North Coast residents are seeing a steady parade of big trucks heading up the coast to the project site.
“Caltrans is certainly committed to rebuilding Highway 1 and restoring traffic along the Big Sur coast as soon as possible,” he continued. “They have determined that they will open the highway to one-way traffic through the new part of the highway as soon as they can safely do so."
Caltrans spokeswoman Susana Cruz said in her weekly update Monday that a 7-mile stretch of the highway remains closed from north of Salmon Creek to just south of Gorda (10 miles north of the Monterey County line). Local businesses are open on both sides of the slide, including at Ragged Point.
Caltrans will continue to evaluate that estimated reopening period, being fully aware of how the community and visitors are affected by such a prolonged closure of the internationally acclaimed All American Highway and scenic byway through Big Sur to Carmel and the Monterey Peninsula.