Highway collapse no danger to Tour of California

Part of California Highway 1 in Big Sur collapsed south of Carmel-by-the-Sea near Rocky Creek Bridge, possibly endangering a portion of this year’s Amgen Tour of California but Caltrans tells Amgen Tour of California race organizers that repairs should be complete in time for the May bicycle race. Stage 5 from Seaside to Paso Robles will pass along this stretch of Highway 1 through Big Sur.

A 40 foot section of the Cabrillo Highway washed into the Pacific Ocean Wednesday, forcing Caltrans to close a two mile section from Palo Colorado Road south to the scenic Bixby Creek Bridge. The red line on the embedded map shows the road closure.

View Highway 1 closure, Big Sur in a larger map

There are no good paved detours around this closed portion of the highway. Drivers and cyclists are forced to go 100 miles out of the way to bypass the closed section of highway. This breathtakingly scenic stretch of California coastline is popular with cycle tourists. Stage 5 of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California from Seaside to Paso Robles is also planned for this stretch of the Central Coast.

Highway 1 landslides are common in the winter months along the Central Coast, but this one seems a little more severe than the usual rocks slides. Caltrans, which is calling the collapse “catastrophic” with no easy fixes, are evaluating the damage and says even temporary repairs will take at least a month to complete. Recent heavy rains saturated the soil, causing the road to give way. A strong cold front is hitting the California coastline today with heavy rains and thunderstorms expected through the weekend.

While the collapse will damage spring tourist traffic through the area, Caltrans says they can expect to see the road open in time for the day of the race on May 19, according to AEG.

Ken Conley’s photo of the Amgen Tour of California passing over Bixby Bridge gives you an idea of the scenery we’ll miss if the highway remains closed through May.

The peloton crosses Bixby Bridge

More about the Highway 1 Big Sur collapse at the Mercury News. Some of the more dramatic images of the collapsed highway can be seen at the Californian.

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