A half-mile segment of Highway 1 will remain closed for at least a year due to the massive Mud Creek Slide, the longest that coastal Big Sur routes have been blocked in decades, a Caltrans spokesman said Friday.
The road, known as the gateway to stunning coastal scenery, is closed north of Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County. A series of four slides on Saturday about 9 miles north of the Monterey County line covered a section of the road in millions of cubic yards of dirt and rocks.
The closure will last “approximately one year, but perhaps longer,” said Jim Shivers, a spokesman for Caltrans District 5. Shivers said Caltrans officials may adjust the timeline as they continue to assess the site and begin cleanup efforts.
The last slide of this size occurred in 1983, when debris covering Highway 1 north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park took 14 months to clear.
Crews are currently using drones and other tools to conduct “aerial reconnaissance” at the scene, a process that will likely take about two weeks, Shivers said.
“That information will then lead us to a strategy for repairs,” he said.
Crews also must be wary of their own safety around the slide, as it still continues to shift, Shivers said.
“First, we have to make sure the site is safe enough for us to be present there,” he said.
Caltrans is facing a long timeline because Highway 1 will need repairs after crews are able to remove the mountain of material covering it, Shivers said. Plus, next year’s winter rains could disrupt cleanup plans, he said.
This year’s heavy rains — San Luis Obispo saw its rainiest January in 20 years — kicked off the movement that led to the giant Mud Creek Slide and the smaller Paul’s Slide 12 miles farther north. The rains were also to blame for shifting earth that required demolition of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge in Big Sur.
Damage at the three areas has rendered the highway impassable, and the only access to the famed Big Sur coast is via Nacimento-Fergusson Road from Highway 101 to the cut-off section between the two slides, where three campgrounds and the tiny town of Gorda are still open for business.