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How long will it last?: Local businesses concerned over Highway 1 closure

Posted at 10:04 PM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-30 01:21:49-05

If you were planning on traveling along the Big Sur coast, you're out of luck.

That's because a portion of Highway 1 is no longer driveable after being washed away in the storm.

The closure could mean another blow to businesses already dealing with revenue loss from COVID. Meanwhile, crews are on scene assessing the damage, trying to determine how to rebuild the iconic stretch of highway.

"This was basically a debris flow within the burn scar of the Dolan Fire," said Jim Shivers, Caltrans District 5 Spokesperson.

The road completely gave way at Rat Creek at mile marker 30. That's about 45 minutes from Ragged Point Inn just south of Eslan.

The highway was already closed in this spot in anticipation of the storm.

The scenic route is no stranger to destruction. Back in May of 2017, you may remember, the largest landslide ever recorded on the Big Sur coast wiped out Highway 1 just north of Ragged Point.

Now on the heels of a devastating 2020, the timing of this one couldn't have come at a worse time for businesses.

The North Coast typically has a lull in tourism in January but in February things usually pick back up.

"With that problem with highway Big Sur it's not going to happen and we were hugely impacted the last time this happened," explained Mary Ann Carson, Cambria Chamber of Commerce Executive Director.

The stretch of road was closed for more than a year for a $54,000,000 rebuild.

"The photographs show that this is nowhere near an event like mud creek," Shivers said.

Nearby businesses saw a decrease in business like Cayucos Coffee.

"Now I think another element for us this year is borders are still closed," said Jena Brancart, Cayucos Coffee Barista. "There's not a lot of international travel which the route was really frequently visited by people coming over and taking vacations and things like that."

The Love Story Project also saw a dip in foot traffic during the last closure.

"It did really hurt us a couple years ago," said Alan Fraser, The Love Story Project Owner.

Though the worldwide destination may have a long road of repairs ahead, businesses are staying hopeful.

"We're just crossing our fingers that people find us another way," Fraser said.

There's no estimated time frame of when work will get underway to repair the road or how long it'll take.

The Cambria Chamber of Commerce says at least 50% of the town's visitors are coming or going to the Big Sur highway.