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Drivers, businesses rejoice over reopening of Hwy 1 through Big Sur

Posted at 5:51 PM, Jul 18, 2018

If you’re planning a summer road trip, you’re in luck. Drivers can once again take Highway 1 from Cambria to Carmel without any roadblocks after the scenic route reopened on Wednesday morning.

At around 10 a.m., Rori Cosma tore down the road closed signs posted in the window of the Ragged Point Inn.

"We’ve always been the bearer of bad news to these people that no, you can’t go up there, the road is closed and we’d explain why," Cosma explained.

On May 20, 2017, a landslide caused by winter rains sent nearly 6 million cubic yards of rock and dirt onto the highway and into the ocean.

"A slide of that magnitude has not taken place before," said Susana Cruz, Caltrans District 5 spokesperson.

The road, traveled by folks from all over the globe, has been inaccessible since.

Wednesday morning, Caltrans crews removed tarps from road signs for the first time in months that covered just how many miles until Gorda, Big Sur, and Carmel.

"When we pulled up, they had us line up and we discovered that it was opening today and we were going to be the first," said Sonia Williamson of Illinois.

Williamson and her family were first in line to head north. They waited nearly three hours to drive the freshly paved road.

At 9:45 a.m., they were let through.

Ken O’Leary of New Zealand has traveled the iconic highway every year for 20 years.

"I Googled it out and it came out: opens at 10 o’clock. I go, ‘perfect.’ Coffee here and up the road," O’Leary said.

The first cars to head south from Big Sur honked and cheered while Caltrans snapped photos.

Tourists and locals came for the highly anticipated re-opening.

"I’ve been visiting, camping in Big Sur for 49 years now so this has been a big deal to me to have this road blow out," said Bob Field of Santa Ynez.

Crews worked seven days a week to build a new highway, completed a few months ahead of schedule.

"It’s even bigger than I thought," Field said.
 
"It’s fascinating," said Jim Goodgion. "I love the coastline. I’ve been wanting to make this drive my whole life. I’m from Kansas City, Missouri."

Meantime, back at the Ragged Point Inn, they’re gearing up for visitors from the south and now the north, just in time for the summer rush.

"We were slightly surprised but boy are we glad. Now we’re frantically trying to hire people," Cosma said.

The project has an estimated cost of $54 million.

Caltrans says it will take a couple of winters for the slopes to stabilize.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held this Friday at 11 a.m. at the Ragged Point Inn.

Cosma adds that the Inn’s restaurant will stop serving the cake that drew inspiration from the highway closure. The "Highway 1 No You Can’t Go That Way Mud Slide Dessert Cake" will be on the menu for only about one more week. Chunks of crushed malt balls and chocolate chips fall out of the cake when people bite into it. The Ragged Point Inn says it’s now coming up with a new cake to celebrate the road’s reopening.