The closure of Highway 1 just north of Jenner has been extended indefinitely after Caltrans engineers concluded this week that repair of storm-related damage would require extensive work.
"Right now we're in the design phase," Caltrans spokesman Adam Priest said. "This week, the engineers decided that the job would take longer ... The project actually has not begun."
Highway 1 was closed on Dec. 5 after heavy rains damaged a 500-foot section of the roadway between Fort Ross and Meyers Grade roads. Priest said the rain caused a "slip-out" of that section of the road, where a sizable portion of the earth that supports the roadway was washed out.
The closure could have a severe impact on nearby communities along Highway that benefit from normal traffic.
"There's hardly any traffic on the road," said Michaela Daniels, manager of the Jenner Inn. "There have probably been three cars on the road in the last hour and one of them was a CHP patrol car."
Daniels said that traffic through and into town has dropped of dramatically since the closure. She said one guest at the inn said it took 25 minutes to take the established detour around the slide.
"If people are going to have to do that detour, they're just not going to drive," she said.
Priest said the repair work likely will require replacing earth that was washed away and the construction of a retaining wall to prevent future undercutting of the road.
Caltrans said the closure is necessary and will permit work crews to conduct long-term repairs, as well as ensure the safety of drivers and work crews.
The detour is as follows: northbound motorists should exit Highway 1 at Meyers Grade Road to Seaview Road, then to Timber Cove Road to rejoin the highway. The detour for southbound traffic is the same only in reverse. Caltrans said the detour is approximately six miles long.