Soar over the Mud Creek Slide in Big Sur weeks before Highway 1 reopens
Anybody planning a hike at Salmon Creek in Monterey County will have to wait a few days.
As of Monday morning, the closure of Highway 1 has been extended south to Ragged Point, as crews prepare to pave the new stretch of road at the Mud Creek Slide site.
For months, the southerly highway-closure point has been at Salmon Creek, and Caltrans officials expect it will be again soon, perhaps as soon as Friday.
The highway is set to reopen to through traffic by July 20, if not before. Caltrans had originally estimated it would be mid-September before travelers could take the road through Big Sur directly from Cambria to Carmel.
Over the July 7-8 weekend, large paving equipment was seen being transported along Highway 1 north of Cambria.
A formal ceremony reopening the highway at Mud Creek, 34 miles north of Cambria, is set for 11 a.m. July 20 at the Ragged Point Inn.
The public is invited to attend, and various state, county and local officials are expected to be there, said Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers.
He said that state Caltrans Director Laurie Berman, District 5 Director Tim Gubbins and county Supervisor Bruce Gibson are expected to be among the dignitaries at the event. Shivers said that also on the invite list were state Resource Agency Director John Laird, State Sen. Bill Monning, Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, Monterey County Supervisor Mary Adams, Kirk Gafill from the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, and representatives of the Cambria and San Simeon chambers.
In a July 5 media release, Berman said the sooner-than-expected reopening date was welcome news for “everyone who travels along this international destination,” as well as for “the many businesses that benefit from the coast highway.”
She noted that the Mud Creek area had been “the last closure point, so travelers will be able to take Highway 1 all the way through Big Sur for the first time in 18 months.”
Closures and fixes
There had been various closure points along that 100-mile stretch of All-American Highway, following a series of storms in late 2016 and the first half of 2017. Severe damage to the bridge at Pfeiffer Canyon was perhaps the most dramatic and problematic situation during that time — that is, until the massive landslide at Mud Creek in May 2017.
To expedite the Pfeiffer Canyon project, a new span was constructed near the canyon and slowly rolled into place. The new bridge opened in October.
At Mud Creek, crews have had to recreate the scenic highway atop material left by the massive landslide, which buried and ruined the old roadway.
Engineers determined that, rather than try to dig the old quarter-mile stretch out from under the 6 million cubic yards of landslide material, it would be faster and better to stabilize and support that material and then build a new road across it. The new stretch will be connected to the existing roadway to the north and south.
The media release said the new roadway is buttressed with a series of embankments and compacted soil. Crews used protective features including berms, rocks, netting, culverts and other stabilizing material.
The approximately 50 acres of displaced land also created 2,400 feet of new shoreline extending out into the sea.
John Madonna Construction of San Luis Obispo is the contractor for the $54 million Mud Creek project, a rebuilding effort in which crews worked dawn to dusk seven days a week.