Highway 1 up the Big Sur Coast will reopen from Cambria to Carmel by Friday, July 20, Caltrans confirmed on Tuesday.
Colin Jones, chief spokesman for the district’s Caltrans office, said a public ribbon cutting will be held at 11 a.m. on July 20 at the Ragged Point Inn to celebrate the complete of roadwork at the Mud Creek Slide, which has been closed for more than a year. Caltrans recently had been projecting the road would reopen at the end of July, but the date has been widely rumored to be earlier than that.
“We’re very pleased to share this long-awaited news with everyone who travels along this international destination and the many businesses that benefit from the coast highway,” said Caltrans Director Laurie Berman. “Mud Creek is 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."
Mel McColloch, president of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, is among those who said for months that the road would reopen earlier than expected.
He notified his members by email on Tuesday, July 3, that “the ribbon cutting for opening the highway will take place on the 20th of July. The highway should be open by that date.” However, he did say he’d send a final update “as soon as I get a date for the highway to open.”
McColloch has visited the Mud Creek site frequently and reported his observations at least monthly to his members.
Once Caltrans reopens the road at Mud Creek, some work will continue on various areas of the 100-mile stretch of the internationally famous scenic All-American Road, but travelers will be able to get through.
A long haul
If July 20 holds as the reopening date, it will have been a long 547 days that Big Sur’s Highway 1 has been closed in one area or another.
The closure has been tough on affected businesses, tourism at Hearst Castle, and area residents.
Some entrepreneurs whose business survival is dependent on the tourist trade have been teetering on the edge of having to close up shop.
And the reopening will mean time and money saved, and huge sighs of relief, for many residents, especially those who live and work on opposite sides of the slide, or who live to the north and have schooling, critical medical treatments and other important destinations to the south.
Travelers from near and far have been unable to traverse the so-called Big Sur Highway portion of Highway 1 since Jan. 20, 2017, when Caltrans stopped traffic along the internationally acclaimed All-American Highway and scenic byway because of landslides in several areas.
Then in February 2017, the sagging Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was deemed unsafe, in part because some of its supporting pillars had slid or cracked.
The second big hit came on May 20, 2017, when a huge hunk of the mountainside over the highway at Mud Creek slid onto and buried a half-mile stretch of roadway.
The bridge was replaced in record time, in part because the deck was built just to the north of the canyon and slowly rolled onto the supporting structure. It reopened in October after an eight-month closure.
Work continues in other Big Sur areas affected by landslides, but traffic flow was restored in each area as soon as Caltrans deemed it safe. Travelers determined to see as much of the scenic route as possible could take Nacimiento Fergusson Road from Highway 101, but that’s not an easy drive when the weather’s clear, let alone during storms or at night.
So, when officials cut the ribbon at the Highway 1 ceremony, McColloch wants to be among those wielding the scissors, celebrating the reopening of a scenic highway that means so much to people along the North and Central Coast, in California, the U.S. and the world.