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Hwy 1 along Big Sur coastline remains closed after three months of closure

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Posted at 7:46 PM, Apr 18, 2023

Since January 4, portions of Highway 1 have been closed from San Luis Obispo County up to Monterey County.

And more than three months later, Highway 1 from Ragged Point to the Big Creek Vista area remains closed.

The 30 miles of roadway took a big enough hit during the storm for three landslides to force the closure.

A big reason CalTrans is not unable to proceed with the fill operation right now is due to the amount of water lying beneath the surface from the ongoing rain.

“People that are on the Big Sur coast are finding springs where they've never found for years. About 12 consecutive atmospheric rivers that really soaked and saturated the soil,” CalTrans District 5 Public Information Officer Kevin Drabinski said.

The reoccurrences of slides along the Big Sur area occur when the area receives heavy amounts of rain, lubricating the soil enough for the soil to slide down the slope and make its way to the ocean.

“The repair really consists of going down in a V from either side north and south of the roadway and building a ramp down there and excavating all the debris material,” Drabinski said. “Most of that has been accomplished. The next step is to bring clean dirt in as fill and compact that fill and raise it up to the level of the roadway.”

Bakersfield resident Dianna Wankum and her husband are frequent Highway 1 coastal travelers and have had to cut their trips north of Ragged Point short.

Typically, when there’s a trip from the valley to the coast for the Wankum family, they add a visit to their son, who resides in San Francisco where he’s attending school.

“We wanted to get away, but we knew we couldn't go far because the coastlines are blocked,” Wankum said. “I'm so grateful not to be near landslides. I love the area, but … I would never live along a landslide. It's just too dangerous.”

Local businesses KSBy spoke with said they are seeing a decrease in travelers in comparison to around this time last year. This is mostly due to the lack of coastal tours along Highway 1 that those out of state like to enjoy during the spring and summer times.

“We’re not getting the tourism from other countries that we typically would get this time of the year when they do their coastal tour,” West End Bar and Grill Owner Vicki Neal said. “I know that it’s affecting us in that way even though the business has picked up it has not picked up the way it would normally be this time of the year.”

Caltrans has created alternate routes in and out of the area only for those who live in the area.

Caltrans officials estimate Gilbert Slide and Dani Creek, north of Paul Slide, will be repaired by mid-July.