Caltrans announced Thursday that it will reopen Highway 1 between Cambria and Carmel by April 30, about two months ahead of the original target date.
The Big Sur highway link was closed Jan. 28 after a torrential rain-and-windstorm sent a 150-foot-wide section of the highway and bluff sliding into the ocean.
By late February, Caltrans estimated the roadwork at Rat Creek would take until about July 1.
However, following relatively good weather since then, consistent work conditions and long work shifts, the state road agency was able to move up that estimate.
Kevin Drabinski, a Caltrans spokesman, said Thursday, that the original reopening estimate was based on previous experience and science. After such an impactful storm in late January, “you don’t think that we’re not going to have any more rain” this season, he said, and you plan accordingly.
Mother Nature had different ideas for 2021.
The contractor “has been able to accelerate that timeline with favorable weather conditions,” Caltrans said in a media release. “Crews can complete remaining construction work after the road reopens.”
Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin said, “Reopening Highway 1 at Rat Creek just three months after a washout of this magnitude is great news for residents, recreationalists, business owners, and those who move goods through this region. Caltrans has been focused on the emergency work needed to increase the resiliency of this highway section to extreme weather, and the fixes made will allow for safe travel.”
Caltrans District 5 Director Tim Gubbins added, “Our crews have worked to create a safe road in challenging conditions, and we are excited to reopen this lifeline earlier than expected.”
After Caltrans identified how it was going to fix the pavement’s deep fissure — with an enhanced fill design repair strategy— crews worked seven days a week during daylight hours to fill the canyon with compacted dirt to the road level, according to the release.
Caltrans will establish the base of a new road during the next two weeks, to be followed by paving and striping.
Drivers will experience some impacts at the site for a while after the road reopens.
Crews will continue construction work requiring intermittent traffic control at Rat Creek. They’ll install a new, redundant drainage system. A 10-foot diameter culvert will improve water flow during storms and make the roadway more resilient to extreme weather activity.
Caltrans will also work on landscaping and installing permanent guardrails throughout the early summer.
For traffic updates on other state highways in Monterey County, travelers may contact Caltrans District 5 Public Affairs at 805.549.3318 or can visit the District 5 website at: dot.ca.gov/caltrans-near-me/district-5.
Caltrans reminds motorists to move over and slow down when driving through highway work zones.
Kathe Tanner is a reporter with the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.