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Big Sur landslide: Caltrans to build road over rubble

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Spill deemed stable enough for road construction

A hillside fallen across Highway One. Courtesy Caltrans

Back in May the “mother of all landslides” smothered Highway One south of Monterey with some five million cubic yards of material, stymying access to Big Sur for months.

A California Department of Transportation spokesperson called it the biggest landslide in the state’s recorded history and “one of a kind.”

Which meant that it was a one of a kind headache for the state agencies in charge of figuring out how to get the road open once again. In June, the San Jose Mercury News even speculated that maybe it’s time to just give up on Highway One altogether.

But Caltrans announced a startlingly straightforward solution on Tuesday: simply building a new road straight over the slide section. According to the department’s press release:

A new roadway will traverse over the site of the massive Mud Creek slide. The new roadway will be realigned across the landslide and will be buttressed with a series of embankments, berms, rocks, netting, culverts and other stabilizing material according to department engineers and geologists.

[...] This strategy will allow Caltrans to rebuild the roadway more quickly and at a lower cost than other alternatives such as structures, a tunnel or major earthwork that places additional fill into the ocean.

There’s no timeline or budget estimate yet, but the department hopes to have one by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, KSBY reports that construction began this week on the new Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge nearby, after the previous structure collapsed during winter storms earlier this year.

The new span should hopefully be up and running (or, more properly, up and staying put) by early 2018.

The scene in July.
John Madonna