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Hwy. 1 to close in Big Sur as major rain storm approaches

Why is Highway 1 cracking at Mud Creek?

A few weeks after scenic Highway 1 reopened to Big Sur, cracks have appeared in the pavement as the new roadway settles at the site of the Mud Creek Slide.
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A few weeks after scenic Highway 1 reopened to Big Sur, cracks have appeared in the pavement as the new roadway settles at the site of the Mud Creek Slide.

Highway 1 is expected to close Wednesday as a storm with heavy rain potential approaches the Central Coast, Caltrans announced Tuesday.

The closure, which will occur at both the Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide areas, is tentatively scheduled for mid-morning, according to an emailed news release from Caltrans. The agency will send out one more notice when the road officially closes.

Gates on either side of Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide will be locked and will not be manned once the highway closes, Caltrans said. Once those gates close, no one, not even emergency services or Caltrans employees, will be let through until authorities inspect the area and perform any necessary cleanup.

When both spots are closed, the only access to the stretch of Highway 1 in between will be via Nacimiento-Fergusson Road over the coastal mountains to Highway 101.

HIGHWAY 1 SLIDES MUD CREEK PAUL’S SLIDE.jpg

The closure is part of a new policy for Caltrans, where the agency will send out a 48-hour traffic advisory for the Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide areas in advance of major rainfall, so the public has time to make alternate travel plans, obtain supplies and otherwise prepare for a possible closure.

Once the advisory hits the 24-hour mark, the agency will either confirm a full closure of the highway or release more information, the agency said. It will also send an update on the day of the expected closure, Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers told The Tribune.

The notices will only apply to the Paul’s Slide and Mud Creek Slide areas, Caltrans said in the release. Each area will be treated separately and one may be open while the other may not, depending on the agency’s assessment.

This is the first season the policy will be in effect for the Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide areas, Shivers said. The policy will continue “until further notice.”

Both slides were caused by heavy winter rainfall during 2016 and 2017, the agency said. Paul’s Slide has been active since January 2017, while Mud Creek’s major collapse occurred on May 20, 2017, when more than 6 million cubic yards of material buried Highway 1.

Even though the highway has been rebuilt over the slides, “continued movement of the newly formed slopes and landslide features are expected in the future,” said Caltrans District 5 Director Tim Gubbins in a news release. “Closing the highway during significant rainfall events is necessary for the safety of the traveling public and our workers.”

Shivers reiterated that the section of Highway 1 to be closed “remains safe for all users.”

“We are implementing these closures in the interest of public safety,” Shivers said. “Rock slides typically occur during the overnight hours when it rains, so we plan to close the highway in anticipation of significant rainfall.”

Following a closure, Caltrans crews will inspect the highway and perform any needed cleanup, the news release said.

“Everyone should understand that rock slides are a way of life and have a long history on the Big Sur Coast,” Shivers said. “Our intent is to minimize disruption to the public while ensuring safety for everyone.”

The first cars drive along the newly opened section of Highway 1 across the Mud Creek Slide on the Big Sur Coast on Wednesday. Drone video shows the progress that crews made to restore the historic road.

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