Relocation of Highway 1 in San Luis Obispo County

The Takeaway: California’s coastal zone management program was part of the team that negotiated this sensitive effort. End results included a road moved inland and new park and visitor facilities.

North of the Piedras Blancas Light Station, California Highway 1 touches the sea where decades of coastal erosion have brought segments of shoreline to the highway’s edge. Plans for relocating the highway inland to avoid costly repairs proved to be a challenge, since this part of the coast contains sensitive ecological resources, and the adjacent land is privately owned. The California Coastal Commission, the state’s coastal management program, helped address the problem through a collaboration that not only lessens risks to highway travelers but also enlarges state park lands and restores habitat for endangered creatures.

The commission worked closely with the California Department of Transportation, California State Parks, and San Luis Obispo County officials to relocate nearly three miles of Highway 1 beyond the estimated 100-year erosion line. Through an agreement with private landowners and nongovernmental organizations, the area between the coast and the relocated highway will add 73 acres to Hearst San Simeon State Park. This opens new opportunities for beach access and affordable visitor facilities, such as a public campground and 3.5 new miles of the California Coastal Trail. As a condition of approval, the Coastal Commission requires Caltrans to mitigate construction impacts by restoring more than eight acres of coastal wetland and 21 acres of coastal prairie, a grassland plant community that provides habitat for many rare and endangered species. (2016)

Partners: California Coastal Commission, California Department of Transportation, California State Parks, NOAA Office for Coastal Management, San Luis Obispo County