BIG SUR (AP) — A scenic stretch of Highway 1 in a popular tourist area along the California coast reopened to traffic Wednesday, more than a year after it was blocked by a massive landslide, officials said.
The newly built, two-lane stretch of road in Big Sur opened two days ahead of schedule, the California Department of Transportation said.
Big Sur, with miles of rugged coast, cliffs and wilderness about 150 miles south of San Francisco, features spectacular views of the ocean and accommodations at high-end resorts.
The slide along the highway linking Northern and Southern California has stymied visitors and hurt businesses, including Ragged Point Inn and Resort, which saw business cut in half.
“We are beside ourselves,” resort spokesman Rori Cosma said about the highway reopening. “We’re extremely happy and desperate to hire people.”
Cosma said the parking lot was packed Wednesday with drivers circling for a spot. And after more than a year of disappointing foreign tourists with news that the highway was closed, he said he was thrilled to tell visitors of the early reopening.
Highway 1 has been dogged by slides since late 2016. But the one that hit Mud Creek near Ragged Point in Big Sur in May 2017 was monumental. Millions of tons of earth moved, displacing 75 acres (30 hectares) of land.
The slide buried the highway perched on the slope of mountains rising dramatically from the Pacific Ocean.
The debris slid well out into the ocean, creating 15 acres (6 hectares) of new coastline about 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) north of the Monterey-San Luis Obispo county line.
The transportation department posted a photogram on Twitter that shows the new road and said it’s now “OPEN for business.”
Construction workers made good progress and officials decided to reopen it ahead of a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for Friday.