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Road crews work to prep Highway 1 for reopening after rock slide

highway 1 ragged point closure.jpg
Posted at 5:51 PM, Oct 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-28 22:25:57-04

If you're planning on traveling Highway 1 from San Luis Obispo into Big Sur, you may need to change your plans.

A portion of Highway 1 just beyond the San Luis Obispo County line is closed after a rockslide on Wednesday morning. Crews are now doing emergency work to make sure it's safe to reopen.

As you pass Hearst Castle, you'll see a sign that reads, "Road Closed. 15 Miles Ahead. No Detour."

"I'm a little disappointed because I don't get out to California that much," said Fred Palma who is visiting from Georgia.

It's the first extended closure of the season putting scenic Highway 1, driven by millions of tourists and locals each year, out of commission.

The last major closure lasted nearly 90 days following a storm in January of this year that wiped out both lanes of the highway.

Now after our first rain and a 4.7-magnitude earthquake nearby, we're met with another closure.

"Our geotech people said that it would just be speculation, that we're really never going to know the exact cause of this. Whether it was the moisture from the rain. Whether it was the earthquake," said Kevin Drabinski, Caltrans District 5 Public Information Officer.

Crews are working during all daylight hours through the weekend to get the roughly 12 mile stretch of road back open to drivers.

Caltrans says the rockslide has left behind a bigger issue.

"Our larger concern is the instability on the slope above the roadway," Drabinski explained.

About 3,000 tons of dirt were brought in from the north to create a ramp to reach the loose rock on the hillside and knock it down. Once the rock is removed, crews will decide if any protective features need to be installed on or below the slope.

It'll also be determined at a later date if the rocks will be hammered or split.

If they're split, essentially, crews will drill holes in the rock and use water and a piece similar to a shotgun shell to create enough pressure to expand and split the rock.

Meanwhile, Caltrans has entered into a half-million-dollar emergency contract with Papich Construction. It's the same Arroyo Grande company that helped complete the last closure months ahead of schedule.

"I'm going to have to make alternate plans to get around towards Gorda and Lucia. Hopefully, I can do that within the frame of my trip," Palma said.

Caltrans says the road closure is expected to last about a week and that it's not expected to reopen before Wednesday, November 3.

A full closure of southbound Highway 1 is in place at Gorda.

Despite the closures, the parking lot at Ragged Point Inn was jam-packed on Thursday and there was also a "no vacancy" sign posted outside.

We're told that hundreds of people have been turned around from the road closure just past the Ragged Point Inn since it went into effect on Wednesday.