Two projects to shore up and improve Highway 1 are finishing on time and on budget, Caltrans officials said at a ribbon-cutting for the Elephant Trunk retaining wall and Cow Cliffs viaduct, Thursday at the Ragged Point Inn.
The Elephant Trunk project, about a mile north of Ragged Point, is designed to restore and buttress the highway against rockslides. It’s below the highway, where the cliffs head down to meet the Pacific Ocean.
“You don’t really see the wall because it’s below where your visual range is, unless you get out of your car,” said project engineer Susan Lazon.
The $9.5 million retaining wall was built by John Madonna Construction of San Luis Obispo and came in ahead of schedule; it had been targeted for winter completion.
Work is scheduled to be completed this week on the Elephant Trunk project and next week on the half-mile Cow Cliffs viaduct, some 31 miles farther north in Monterey County, north of Big Creek Bridge. RGW Construction of Livermore was the contractor for that $3.9 million project, which Caltrans District 5 construction chief Tim Campbell described as a bridge over a landslide.
District 5 includes Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, San Benito and Santa Barbara counties.
“It will help with safety and it will help with the flow of the highway,” said Susana Cruz, Caltrans public information officer. “Highway 1 used to close for three months at a time,” but with the continuing improvements, “the slides seem to be less and less.”
In addition to Campbell, those who spoke at the ribbon-cutting included contractors John Madonna and Miles Miessner; Cheri McKee of Supervisor Bruce Gibson’s office; Kirk Gaffil, president of the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce.
We’re hanging off the edge of a cliff, really the edge of a continent, and that produces a lot of challenges.
Tim Campbell, Caltrans District 5 construction chief
Campbell spoke about some of the challenges construction workers faced in completing the two projects. For one thing, he said, they had to coordinate their work to provide a minimum of disruption to travelers and businesses along the Highway, which is the only way into or out of places such as Gorda and Ragged Point.
“We’re hanging off the edge of a cliff, really the edge of a continent, and that produces a lot of challenges,” Campbell said. He spoke of “drill rigs hanging off the edge of a slide,” adding that “it’s vitally important that we keep the road open as often as he can.”
Although occasional overnight closures were required in both directions, the majority of the projects were completed using alternating lane closures and one-way traffic signals.