Big Sur’s Highway 1 to reopen Friday — ahead of schedule — after major rockfall

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Along an almost 40-mile stretch of Highway 1, Big Sur has been isolated from the rest of the state for weeks — with limited access for residents and essential workers — after a massive chunk of the roadway fell into the ocean in late March.

But on Friday — ahead of schedule — the damaged section of the scenic highway will reopen to the public, via an alternating single lane, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday at a news conference. The reopening, following major repairs and remediation, restores access to several tourism hot spots along the roadway.

“Caltrans is working overtime,” Newsom said. “Subject to an act of God, extreme winds, unlikely rain … we’ll be able to achieve that: 6:30 [a.m.] this Friday, Highway 1 will be reopened.”

The California Department of Transportation had previously committed to reopening the section of damaged highway by Memorial Day.

The iconic route has been closed to the public since March 30, when torrential rains pounded the coast and a section of the southbound lane near the Rocky Creek Bridge collapsed, about 12 miles south of Carmel.

Officials have been working to restore access to the area using just the northbound lane, as it wasn’t damaged when the rockfall severely damaged the southbound lane. Caltrans plans to use traffic signals to alternate vehicles traveling both directions across the single lane.

Newsom on Tuesday acknowledged the “deep anxiety” that residents and business owners had felt the last few weeks, coming and going only through twice-a-day convoys, which were canceled a few times due to weather concerns. The local chamber of commerce had urged expedited repairs to help avoid further losses during one of Big Sur’s peak seasons for tourism, the area’s largest industry.

The closure from the March slip-out was particularly challenging because access to much of Highway 1 had already been limited to travelers coming from the north, as a different stretch of the roadway has been closed since January 2023. About 30 miles south of the Rocky Creek slip-out, a string of landslides — including one this winter — closed about 12 miles of the roadway near Lucia. That closure begins near Limekiln State Park in the south.

Repairs there remain ongoing, and officials have said they hope to reopen that stretch sometime this summer.

At the Rocky Creek closure, crews have been working since March to improve stability, safety features and drainage in the area. Caltrans contractors recently started work on more long-term stabilization efforts to eventually reopen two-lane traffic, with plans to drill vertical and horizontal supports deep into the cliffside.

A recent analysis of the slip-out near Rocky Creek Bridge determined that it was most likely caused by routine weather, erosion and water — common challenges along the Big Sur coast, which has repeatedly suffered through highway closures and unforeseen land movement, according to a new analysis by federal geologists.

Although such events are almost impossible to predict, officials said it’s good that a more precarious, deep-seated landslide doesn’t appear to be the cause of the March slip-out.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.