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Part of Highway 1 near Big Sur crumbles as new landslide closes more of historic roadway

A rockslide covers part of Highway 1
A rockslide covers Highway 1, south of Mill Creek, along the Big Sur Coast in January 2023. A 12.1-mile section along the Big Sur coastline has been closed for more than a year.
(Caltrans District 5)
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A roughly 1.4-mile stretch of California’s famed Highway 1 between Big Sur and Carmel-by-the-Sea closed Saturday after a portion of the southbound lane crumbled into the sea.

Highway 1 is closed indefinitely from Palo Colorado Road to Rocky Creek Bridge, the California Department of Transportation said on social media. Photographs of the closed section posted on the blog of Big Sur resident Kate Woods Novoa showed a large chunk missing from the side of the road, as if a hungry creature had taken a bite out of the asphalt.

It’s the latest setback for the beloved but volatile highway. The area is still struggling to recover from landslides triggered by last year’s soaking wet winter, which forced the closure of a 12.1-mile section along the Big Sur coastline.

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Just last week, Caltrans announced that it had finished its design plan for repairs at Regent’s Slide, a massive pile of earth and muck blocking the road near milepost 27.8.

The design still needs to make its way through the approval process, which is expected to take about 30 days, Caltrans said in a statement. Once work begins, the agency said, it will take an estimated 100 days to complete the job and reopen the highway.

On Friday night, the closed section was briefly extended an additional 22 miles south to Ragged Point following new slide activity near Alder Creek, Caltrans said on social media. The area was cleared, and the road reopened Saturday morning.

A late-season storm brings as much as 3 inches of rain and flooded freeways to the Los Angeles area, with a rare tornado warning in Santa Barbara County.

March 30, 2024

But landslide activity Saturday afternoon briefly extended the closure an additional 30-plus miles to the north, cutting off outside access to Big Sur entirely. After assessing the damage, Caltrans reopened the road from Rocky Creek Bridge to just north of Dolan Creek Bridge.

Regent’s Slide is the largest of several landslides in the Big Sur area that occurred as a result of last winter’s atmospheric rivers. Roughly 300,000 cubic yards of dirt, rock and other debris will be removed from the Regent’s Slide site during repair work, Caltrans said.

In contrast, landslides at Dani Creek, Gilbert’s and Mill Creek deposited an average of 30,000 cubic yards of material each.

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Crews will start preparing the area for staging machinery this week, as long as the weather cooperates.

“The steepness of the slope and the limited access to the site will make it challenging to mobilize equipment in and out of the project area,” the agency said. “In the interest of safety and in order to foster efficient productivity, drier conditions at the site will be needed before full repair production can begin.”

The closed section of road contains three separate slide sites: Regent’s Slide, the Dolan Point Slide at milepost 29.5 and Paul’s Slide at milepost 22.

Repairs at Dolan Point are expected to be complete by May 1, Caltrans said. Work at Paul’s Slide, where a landslide dumped mud and debris over a 2-mile stretch of Highway 1 in January 2023, is expected to finish by late spring.

Recovery has been stymied by ongoing rains and subsequent shifts in the soil. Caltrans was poised to begin cleanup at Paul’s Slide last year when a second landslide struck the same area, forcing further delays.

“We had a plan,” Caltrans’ District 5 public information officer Jim Shivers told The Times last year, “and then things kept moving.”

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