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Highway 1 at Rocky Creek near Big Sur reopens to all traffic Friday

An aerial view of Caltrans crews and equipment working to stabilize Highway 1's southbound lane at Rocky Creek near Big Sur.
Caltrans District 5
An aerial view of Caltrans crews and equipment working to stabilize Highway 1's southbound lane at Rocky Creek near Big Sur.

Some good news for the Big Sur community: Starting 6:30 a.m. May 17, travel is no longer restricted through the Highway 1 site of the Rocky Creek slip out.

A traffic signal will control movement through the area, allowing for unrestricted travel 24/7. It will replace the twice-daily convoys that have guided cars through the area since April 1 after part of Highway 1’s southbound lane fell into the ocean during storms the last weekend of March.

Caltrans officials and California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a press release Tuesday that the reopening comes eight days ahead of schedule — initially, it was slated for May 25, the Friday before Memorial Day.

"Highway 1 is the jewel of the California highway system and our crews have been working non-stop for the last month and a half so Californians can have unrestricted access to this iconic area of our state," Caltrans director Tony Tavares said in the press release.

Crews worked day and night, Caltrans spokesperson Kevin Drabinski told KAZU, often in a basket supported by a crane that was suspended over the edge of the highway.

"It was an ambitious engineering fix," he said. "We usually don't work at night when there are slides above the roadway. But in this instance, we were able to light it up because the the slippage was below the roadway."

The newly opened flow of traffic will help restore hours for employees, since local business owners like general manager of Nepenthe, Kurt Gafill, said they had to slash hours due to tourists unable to visit the area.

“The lion's share, three-fourths to 85% of our staff that are hourly, are either tremendously reduced hours or we just haven’t been able to offer them anything,” Gafill told KAZU in April. “And so that’s our greatest concern.”

Gafill, who also chairs the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, said the convoy schedule — limited to mornings and evenings — meant a major drop in expected business, of about 80 to 90%.

Caltrans spokesperson Kevin Drabinski cautioned travelers to still expect delays, but suggested they could be an opportunity to enjoy the journey to Big Sur as much as the destination.

"We have a chance to fully appreciate the scenic beauty, the iconic stretch of highway," he said. "And just to take our time on that stretch of road and enjoy the view and the sights and smells.

Currently, a permanent repair for the highway at the slip out location is being designed. That project has an estimated completion date of spring 2025.

Further down Highway 1, Caltrans continues to work on repairs for three separate slides — each with their own reopening timeline — that happened during last year’s storms.

During a Monterey County briefing May 15, officials said Dolan Point repairs look to be completed this month. Repairs at Paul's Slide are projected to finish later this summer, while at Regents Slide the estimate for completed repairs is during fall.

This is a developing story and will continue to be updated. 

Janelle Salanga is a reporter for KAZU. Prior to joining the station, they covered Sacramento communities and helped start the SacramenKnow newsletter at CapRadio.
Jerimiah Oetting is KAZU’s news director. Prior to his career in public media, he was a field biologist with the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service.
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