(KSBW) Road construction crews are making fast progress rebuilding Highway 1 in the Big Sur area after last year’s Mud Creek landslide that wiped out a huge section of the roadway, creating an additional 15 acres of coastline.
Right now, Gorda is the end of the world in Monterey County. The small community just north of Mud Creek is where Caltrans has set up a big U-turn for drivers on Highway 1.
"People are constantly asking directions. We have to tell them, ‘you have to go back to Carmel,’" said Ringo Jukes, waiter at Whale Watcher’s Cafè.
Jukes lives about three miles south of the closure, which has turned his five-minute commute into a three-and-a-half-hour trip.
"Right now, I stay here in a camper, like in an RV, then I go to my real house about once a month, check, make sure everything is okay," he explained.
On the other side of the roadblock, Caltrans crews are doing all they can to get Highway 1 back open.
Included in the work is a retaining wall designed to catch rocks coming down from the slide, which is still active. It’s built to be flexible so it can take the impact of boulders like the ones that have already come down.
Rocks are still raining down at Mud Creek and it makes for a precarious job site.
"What you do is you look up and you see where the rock is coming and then you move to avoid it," said geotechnical engineer Ryan Turner as he walked around the job site on Tuesday.
Workers are tasked with cutting into what remains of the slide to build a new roadbed while below them on the ocean side, another crew is using the slide material to build engineered fill.
Eventually, the two levels will meet to make a much wider roadbed than what was there before the slide.
"It’s always been a narrow spot here," Turner said. "The goal is to make a very wide bench here, not just because we can, but so we can handle those anticipated future events."
Turner says they got a lot of work done thanks to a dry winter and if all continues as planned, the highway will be back open in mid-September, reconnecting the north and south sides of California and making it easier for people like Juke to get home.
"I don’t mind. You know, one day I will look back on it and I will think that was really special," Juke said. "Cause like one day, all the traffic will be back and it will be like the way it was."
Highway 1 is closed at Salmon Creek on the south end of the slide.