Starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday, travelers will be able to drive from Cambria to Carmel for the first time in 18 months, a Caltrans spokeswoman announced Tuesday.
The agency will do a “soft opening” of the All-American Highway at Mud Creek, 34 miles north of Cambria, where a massive landslide in May 2017 demolished and buried the roadway.
That’s two months earlier than originally estimated and two days before a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony commemorates the reopening.
The public ceremony laced with dignitaries is set for 11 a.m. Friday, July 20, at Ragged Point Inn. Parking is limited, so Caltrans and the Cambria Chamber of Commerce ask that attendees carpool when possible.
Chamber President Mel McColloch urged the group’s members to “be prepared for an influx of tourists in the coming weeks.” He also said “the Chamber is proud of our members for the way they managed during the difficult 18-month closure” of the highway that’s such a vital link for the area’s tourism industry.
Hearst Castle is ready for the change with a full assortment of tours and guides at the ready, said Dan Falat, superintendent of the State Parks district that includes the former San Simeon hilltop estate.
“We’ve already got our playbook pretty well laid out,” he said Tuesday morning. Extensive advance planning he and his team did earlier this year was based on “the long-term perception that Highway 1 would reopen sometime soon, and it’s much easier for us to plan for full capacity than to switch midstream and add capacity later.”
The Mud Creek area has been the last closure point along the nearly 100-mile stretch of Highway 1 between Cambria and Carmel.
There had been various other closures along that stretch, following a series of storms in late 2016 and the first half of 2017.
At Mud Creek, crews have had to recreate the scenic highway atop material left by a massive landslide in May 2017, which buried and ruined the old roadway.
John Madonna Construction of San Luis Obispo is the contractor for the $54 million project, a rebuilding effort in which crews worked dawn to dusk seven days a week.
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 ribbon of asphalt is connected to the existing roadway to the north and south.
The 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 land displaced from the mountain above also created 2,400 feet of new shoreline extending out into the sea.