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Big Sur businesses, workers impacted by Highway 1 closure due to weekend slip-out


Big Sur businesses, workers impacted by Highway 1 closure due to weekend slip-out

BIG SUR – A slip-out of Highway 1 near Rocky Creek Bridge, which prompted a closure of the roadway from Palo Colorado Road to south of Rocky Creek Bridge in Monterey County, has hobbled business in Big Sur for the foreseeable future, but there are signs it may not be as severe as prior closures.

“The key difference with this one is that convoys are providing somewhat reliable access of supplies and employees,” said Big Sur Chamber of Commerce President and General Manager of Nepenthe Kirk Gafill. “But it doesn’t address the economic impact to businesses.”

The slip-out occurred Saturday, causing the highway to be closed and stranding an estimated 1,600 residents and visitors. Since Sunday, Caltrans has been opening Highway 1 twice a day to convoys, but those convoys have been canceled Thursday and Friday because of the rain forecast. They are expected to resume Saturday.

Gafill said that nearly 100% of business volume is generated by visitors to the area. Right now all the state parks in the area are closed and authorities are discouraging visiting the Big Sur Coast.

Businesses in Big Sur will take a blow from the constricted flow of traffic and tourist dollars in the coming days, if not weeks.

Gafill said that will not change or improve until the resumption of public access with at least traffic flowing using the northbound lane, which is where the convoys having been moving. He said a good sign is that there are no weight limits.

If Caltrans can stabilize the roadway and restore single-lane access to the public, business should be able to rebound to a level of that before the slip-out, said Gafill. The sooner that happens, the sooner Big Sur businesses can recover.

In 2017, when the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was rebuilt after its failure which closed Highway 1 for months, the economic impact was about a million dollars a day, said Gafill citing figures from the state.

The Big Sur Coast and Highway 1 bring visitors to the area from around the world who want to experience the natural beauty of the area. The effects of the closure are surely felt locally but have implications for the state as well. People tend to cancel trips to destinations that present problems getting from one point to the other, or limited access to the attractions that bring them here in the first place.

The Big Sur International Marathon, scheduled for April 28, uses Highway 1 in that area as part of its course and organizers have yet to determine how to pivot with this latest weather-related event.

“As long as the highway is closed, the northern section will see visitors change plans,” said Gafill.

The impact will be felt by businesses and employees alike which have learned over time how to navigate periodic disruptions to the flow of visitors.

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