Caltrans says Highway 1 at Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide in Big Sur will remain closed until further notice because of what they call “significant slide activity.”
The sections of highway were closed early Tuesday evening in anticipation of severe storm activity.
Caltrans says its crews inspected the highway on Wednesday and found several large, potentially unstable boulders perched above the road at both locations. They also reportedly discovered that a portion of the new road in the Mud Creek area has sunk as much as five feet since last week.
“Sinking of about three to five feet in some areas, some cracks in the roadways,” said Colin Jones, Caltrans District 5 spokesperson. “We knew this was going to happen after the Mud Creek repair that the area was still moving still shifting, still stabilizing and that’s why we are doing these preemptive closures because we knew it would take a couple of winters for everything to settle.”
The 1/4-mile section of highway at Mud Creek reopened to the public last July after a $54 million project to rebuild the roadway, which was wiped out by a massive landslide in May 2017.
David Stoothoff says the frequent closures make for slow nights at his restaurant in Cambria.
“If it’s closed and there is a lot of rain, people tend not to make reservations,” said David Stoothoff, owner and chef of Madeline’s Restaurant.
No customers mean less work for his staff.
“It becomes more difficult to staff the restaurant,” said Stoothoof. “It affects our workers, our servers our cooks, they don’t get as many hours.”
He says even though this time of year is slower for business, inevitable closures can make it worse.
“Having that road closed for a year and a half and then after it opened the influx of people really opened my eyes on how important that artery is to Cambria business,” said Stoothoof.
“It’s very unstable geographically and geologically being the last part of the continent so we’ve historically had issues out there,” said Jones. “With that saturation of the ground with all the rainfall, we always see more movement along that area of Big Sur.”
Caltrans closes the roads to keep drivers safe though it might keep the streets of Cambria quiet.
At Paul’s Slide, north of Mud Creek, Caltrans says mud is flowing off the hillside and the temporary guardrail is reaching full capacity.
“Really Big Sur is one way in, one way out, but you also have Nacimiento and Ferguson Road as an alternate, but it is a major inconvenience,” said Jones.
Caltrans says its crews are performing “herculean efforts” to clear the roadway. They’re expected to take another look at the roadway conditions on Thursday morning.