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Highway 1 washout near Big Sur expected to be fixed by summer

Crews dig debris from a washed-out section of Highway 1 on Feb. 10, 2021.
Crews dig debris from a washed-out section of Highway 1 at Rat Creek, south of Big Sur, on Feb. 10.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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.

In a 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.

“We know that seasonally, March is a heavy rain month, and we’re moving a lot of dirt around,” said Caltrans spokesman Kevin Drabinski. 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.

Going forward, 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 mile post 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.”

The slide occurred about 2 miles south of Big Sur’s Esalen Institute, blocking northbound coastal travelers from such Central Coast icons as Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Nepenthe restaurant and Big Sur Campgrounds and Cabins.

Landmarks south of the roadblock include Lucia (7 miles), Gorda (20 miles), Ragged Point (about 30 miles) and San Simeon (about 45 miles).


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