Updated 1:20 p.m. Wednesday
A section of Highway 1 obliterated by a monster landslide near the southern end of Big Sur is reopening after 14 months of re-engineering and construction.
Caltrans announced Tuesday night that the final phase of the $54 million project — which restored the broken highway just south of the community of Gorda and 25 miles north of San Simeon — went faster than expected and that the road would be open to traffic Wednesday.
A celebratory agency tweet declared the road open at 9:45 a.m.
The slide on May 20, 2017, occurred when a rain-saturated mountainside at Mud Creek gave way, destroying hundreds of yards of the coast highway and dumping millions of tons of dirt and rock into the Pacific.
The episode was the last and largest in a series of slides, slumps and slope collapses along the coastal route during the extraordinarily rainy season of 2016-17. At the northern end of Big Sur, a mudslide knocked out the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge near Big Sur Station.
With Big Sur cut off for months last year, many residents, construction crews and tourists were forced to use Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, a narrow, twisting route across the mountains, to access the area.
The disruptions choked off the usually heavy flow of visitors to the 75-mile stretch of coast.
Now, with a new bridge in place at Pfeiffer Canyon and Wednesday's reopening at Mud Creek, that isolation is over.
Rick Aldinger, general manager of the Big Sur River Inn, said Wednesday he’s looking forward to a steady flow of guests.
“I would like to think that by noon we'll be back up to normal levels of business. But I really don't expect that to happen,” Aldinger said.
Caltrans spokeswoman Susana Cruz noted the Mud Creek reopening is two months ahead of last year's original estimate — while vacationers are still on the road.
"We're just really happy that there's still part of summer left, because the original plan was mid-September," after the height of the tourist season, she said. "We're very happy about that."
This report contains reporting from Krista Almanzan of KAZU.