Scenic Highway 1 near Big Sur to reopen this summer

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Caltrans is estimating it can reopen Highway 1 — and reconnect Southern California with Big Sur and points beyond — by early summer.

The highway closed Jan. 28 after a 150-foot section at Rat Creek was washed out by heavy rains that caused debris flow at the creek in Monterey County.

A coastal highway is missing a section.
A 150-foot section on Highway 1 collapsed.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

In a news release Thursday, Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin said, “We’re focused on restoring travel on this section by early summer.” The repair cost is estimated at $11.5 million, involving “the manipulation of tens of thousands of cubic yards of material.”

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However, officials also warned that more wet weather could slow the work.

Two men work behind fencing.
High scalers Daniel McNeal and Justin Wiese clean out rocks and debris caught by fencing at the Cow Cliff’s slide as crews continue to repair Highway 1.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

“We know that seasonally, March is a heavy-rain month, and we’re moving a lot of dirt around,” Caltrans spokesman Kevin Drabinski said. Still, he added, “We estimate that by the middle of summer it will be open.”

The highway has been closed since the washout, beginning with a 23-mile shutdown. But workers have gradually reduced the number of closed miles.

A broken coastal road.
The highway has been closed since Jan. 28.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Caltrans said about five miles of the highway will be closed to all traffic, including pedestrians and bicycles, with northbound traffic blocked at Big Creek Vista Point (Monterey County milepost 27.3). Southbound traffic is blocked at the Lime Creek Bridge (milepost 32.1).

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“That’s firm for the duration of the repairs,” Drabinski said. “There are no businesses within the closure.”

Two "Road Closed" signs in front on heavy road equipment.
Some 23 miles of highway were closed.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The slide occurred about two miles south of Big Sur’s Esalen Institute, blocking northbound coastal travelers from such Central Coast sites as Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Nepenthe restaurant and Big Sur Campground & Cabins.

A broken coastal road seen from above.
A drone view of the highway washout.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A man works behind fencing.
High scaler Daniel McNeal repairs fencing as crews clear rocks and debris caught at Cow Cliff’s slide.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A broken coastal road.
The ocean is visible below the collapse.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A man stands by the coast.
Saul Paz stands by to cut logs that were swept downstream at Rat Creek, clogging a drain and sweeping a swath of Highway 1 into the sea.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Workers and road equipment.
Workers have gradually reduced the number of closed miles.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A broken coastal road.
Officials warned that more wet weather could slow the work.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A broken coastal road.
The sun sets over the scenic highway.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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A road sign by the ocean.
The sunset is reflected in a road sign.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

More visual journalism from the photography staff of the Los Angeles Times