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Caltrans plans emergency repairs and re-opening of Highway 1 at Rat Creek 

Aerial photo showing debris and the washout of Highway 1 on February 1

Aerial photo showing debris and the washout of Highway 1 on Feb. 1.

Caltrans on Thursday announced major emergency repairs to Highway 1 at Rat Creek. The repairs to the Big Sur coastline highway will begin on March 1. Caltrans estimates it will reopen the famed roadway early this summer. Debris flow from the Dolan Fire burn scar washed out a 150-foot section of roadway Jan. 28, causing a full closure.

After assessing the damage, removing debris, and making minor repairs, Caltrans will reconnect the roadway at Rat Creek with an enhanced fill option. Caltrans will fill the canyon with dirt in a large V-shape and construct a new road on top of the fill.

“Caltrans crews have been on site since this highway section washed out in the recent storms to assess the damage, and we’re pleased to announce emergency construction begins next week to repair and reconnect the highway,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “Highway 1 is an iconic roadway that connects travelers with small businesses on the Central Coast, and we’re focused on restoring travel on this section by early summer.”

Excavators removing debris from the canyon February 11

Excavators removing debris from the canyon Feb. 11.

The enhanced fill option also involves replacing the main drainage system at Rat Creek with an oversized main culvert, a secondary culvert, and smaller overflow culverts closer to the highway grade. This will increase the capacity of the drainage system, add redundancies designed to withstand future debris flows, and enhance the resiliency and sustainability of the highway against rising sea level and coastal erosion.

“The repairs for Highway 1 at Rat Creek include improvements that can prevent similar damage from future debris flows,” said Caltrans District 5 Director Tim Gubbins. “We look forward to swiftly making these repairs so that all travelers will have a safe and resilient stretch of highway.”

Caltrans estimates the repairs will cost $11.5 million, including $5 million in ongoing emergency repairs north of Rat Creek. The contractor is Papich Construction of Arroyo Grande.

Approximately five miles of Highway 1 will be closed to all vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic during repairs. The northern turnaround is two miles north of Rat Creek at the Lime Creek Bridge at PM 32.1, and the southern closure is at Big Creek Vista Point at PM 27.3.

The plan calls for work seven days a week during daylight hours, with longer shifts possible as the project progresses. The repair work involves the manipulation of tens of thousands of cubic yards of material, and rain could cause delays. Caltrans will adjust the timetable, as necessary.

All businesses and activities south of Rat Creek in communities including Lucia, Gorda, Treebones, Ragged Point, San Simeon and Cambria will continue to remain accessible from the south on Highway 1. Similarly, the entire stretch of Highway 1 north of the closure, from Monterey and Carmel to the businesses and recreational facilities of the greater Big Sur area will be open for business and unaffected by the closure. Only through traffic on Highway 1 is affected by the washout at Rat Creek.

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The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at info@pasoroblesdailynews.com.