Highway 1 realignment at Gleason Beach to open to traffic Wednesday night

Caltrans says $60.5 million 3/4-mile highway and bridge span will be ready for motorists to use by 8 p.m. Wednesday.|

Caltrans says work crews are on track to have a newly constructed stretch of Highway one on the Sonoma Coast open to motorists for the very first time by 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Workers put a rush on final touches for the $60.5 million job so they could get it open in advance of a storm arriving Thursday and several more days of rain forecast after that, Caltrans spokesman Jeff Weiss said.

It will be a low-key debut for the controversial project, which includes a 3/4-mile segment of road part of which is an 850-foot-long bridge spanning Scotty Creek near Gleason Beach. It’s now the largest human-made structure on the Sonoma Coast

The road’s completion comes after nearly a decade and a half of debate, planning and temporary fixes to account for erosion along the coastal bluff that carries the popular, scenic roadway. The project costs included $22 million in federal funds, Caltrans said.

Now in its third year of construction, road realignment between Bodega Bay and Jenner was designed principally to move motorists away from the crumbling coastline, where the bluffs are losing up to 14 inches a year to the erosive forces of wind, waves, storm surge and seepage.

At least 12 homes on the undermined bluff have been destroyed, removed or fallen onto the ocean shore.

The southbound highway also has buckled and cracked in places, forcing Caltrans to move lanes inland and impose other temporary conditions to keep traffic moving along the coast.

The rising ocean and increased wave action are expected to carve away about 1 1/2 feet of land per year from the area by 2050 and 4 1/2 feet per year by 2100, according to the project environmental impact report.

The realignment moves the highway up to 400 feet away from the existing roadway in a sweeping curve that includes the 850-foot bridge across Scotty Creek and the surrounding flood plain.

Additional work is still to come this year, including removal of a concrete culvert that impedes fish passage at the mouth of Scotty Creek as well as parts of the old highway to allow restoration of the surrounding wetlands. Scotty Creek has historically provided spawning grounds for endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout.

Some of the old highway will remain as access road to existing structures.

Improvements for public access to the adjacent beach, managed by Sonoma County Regional Parks, also are in store, as well as an extension of the California Coastal Trail, Weiss said.

“A lot of stuff still to be done has to do with ecological and beautification issues,” he said Tuesday. “The heavy construction, the road building will be mostly done tomorrow.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan (she/her) at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.