Highway 1 fill progress

Progress filling the slide on Highway 1 at Rat Creek, as seen on April 5, 2021.

That scenic weekend drive down Highway 1 to San Luis Obispo could be coming sooner than you imagined. Caltrans announced on Thursday that it plans to reopen the iconic coastal route by April 30. The road has been closed at Rat Creek since Jan. 28, when a significant winter rainstorm and mudslide washed 150 feet of it into the Pacific ocean.

Repairs to the road began March 1, after Caltrans chose Papich Construction for an $11.5 million contract to replace the missing road with a so-called "enhanced fill option." Essentially, this means contractors have been filling the canyon with dirt in order to build a new road on top. In late February, the transportation agency estimated that these fixes would be completed by “early summer.”

Now, they’re publicly celebrating an ahead-of-schedule reopening date. “Reopening Highway 1 at Rat Creek just three months after a washout of this magnitude is great news for residents, recreationalists, business owners and those who move goods through this region,” Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin said in a statement. “Caltrans has been focused on the emergency work needed to increase the resiliency of this highway section to extreme weather, and the fixes made will allow for safe travel.”

While aerial photos of the slide show significant progress in filling it, Caltrans District 5 public information officer Kevin Drabinski tells the Weekly that crews still need to lay a base for the new road, pave it and stripe it before reopening can take place.

In addition to rebuilding the road, Caltrans has plans to replace the main drainage system at Rat Creek with a bunch more culverts—an oversized main culvert and a secondary culvert, as well as smaller overflow culverts. All this, the agency says, will help prevent a similar washout in the future. This work will continue after the official reopening.

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