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How Caltrans Will Fix The Highway 1 Chasm At Rat Creek

Brandt Bates
Caltrans released their plan to repair the damage at Rat Creek on Thursday. About a month ago, this section of the roadway washed out.

Highway 1 is scheduled to reopen early this summer. A section of the road on Big Sur’s south coast is closed after a debris flow washed out both lanes. The work to repair the damage will begin Monday, March 1.

Crews have been hauling out boulders and trees that came down in the debris flow.

Caltrans crews have been working at the site everyday since last January. That’s when a rainstorm set off a debris flow from the burn scar of last summer’s wildfire. It sent huge boulders and redwood trees down the hillside above the highway. All that woody debris clogged the 80-year-old drainage infrastructure and washed out the highway. Now, there’s a 150-foot chasm in the road. 

After assessing the damage, Caltrans released its $11.5 million repair Thursday. It will fill the chasm with dirt and construct a new road on top. 

“And then design it in a way where it really has “over capacity” for drainage so that it can withstand any future debris flows in that area,” said Kevin Drabinski, public information officer for Caltrans District 5.

The new drainage system will include an oversized main culvert, a secondary culvert and small overflow culverts. Caltrans said it will also better protect the highway from coastal erosion and rising sea levels.



Credit Brandt Bates
Caltrans will fill the chasm with dirt and build a new road on top.


Caltrans considered building a bridge, but Drabinski said that was more expensive and would take longer to construct.

Repairing this section of roadway in a remote and rugged area is no easy task. It will involve moving lots of Earth. The work will also happen in the middle of the rainy season. Weather permitting, the goal is to reopen the highway early this summer.

Until then, 5 miles of Highway 1 will be closed to all traffic, including pedestrians and cyclists. Drabinsky said that way they can open the road sooner. 

Although the closure interrupts through traffic, Big Sur businesses to the north and businesses south of the closure are accessible and open. 

Erika joined KAZU in 2016. Her roots in radio began at an early age working for the independent community radio station in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. After graduating from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in 2012, Erika spent four years working as a television reporter. She’s very happy to be back in public radio and loves living in the Monterey Bay Area.
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