Big Sur open for business as Highway 1 re-opens in both directions

Highway 1, battered by winter storms, opened Friday along the Big Sur coastline, eight days ahead of schedule.

The scenic route, no stranger to cracks and closures, had been closed for six weeks. 

A rockslide, which Caltrans called a "slipout," occurred on March 30.

The large gaping hole in the pavement was triggered by heavy rains and left the southbound lane of Highway 1, south of the Rocky Creek Bridge, partially impassable. 

"Well to the business community and to the employees who work for the businesses a tremendous change. It is very important," said Krik Gafill, president of the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce. 

Big Sur is heavily dependent on visitors and has already been impacted by a separate closure of Highway 1 to the south.  

"We have had seven weeks with essentially no business to speak of at all in the community. So we have had probably 90 percent of our employees collectively have either been furloughed or working at very reduced hours," Gafill said. 

Despite Highway 1 re-opening, the area that collapsed will be subject to alternating one-way traffic, controlled by temporary traffic signals, for the foreseeable future, officials said. Permanent repairs are expected to be completed by next spring.

Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to secure $100 million in federal funding for road repairs.

Big Sur is a 90-mile stretch of the state’s central coast where often misty, forested mountains descend to the ocean.  

Much of Highway 1 is perched on the edge of cliffs, presenting dramatic views that draw tourists.  Tourism leaders say the highway itself is a key California tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the globe.  

"We love our local community down here. Not just our employees but our friends and long-term residents. So we did everything we could to serve that community, to serve that community we love so much," said Colin Twohig, General Manager of the Big Sur River Inn.

The Big Sur River Inn was one of many businesses that stepped up during the closure to help out local residents as tourists were not allowed to visit. 

"So three days a week our chef cooked up school lunches for the Captain Cooper Elementary School kids. And we did that four about four or five weeks," Twohig said.   Twohig said the school district was unable to bring in hot meals from its central kitchen due to the slipout. It was just one of many challenges the community faced during the highway closure. 

Businesses say they are already getting calls for reservations and tourism leaders are not hesitant to encourage visitors now that the highway has re-opened.

"So the wildflowers are fantastic, there’s green lush slopes, the rivers are full the creeks are raging the waterfalls are fantastic. And you are sharing Big Sur with a lot fewer people than you might otherwise in years past," Gafill said. 

Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast reopened May 17, 2024 

Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast reopened May 17, 2024 

Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast reopened May 17, 2024