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Critical roadway in South Monterey County awarded $12.6M for repairs

Nacimiento-Fergusson Road receives federal funding to fix damaged sections

Sections of Nacimiento-Fergusson Road located in the Los Padres National Forest were damaged by mudslides and flooding during a major winter storm in 2021. (Contributed)

JOLON — Federal Highway Administration will provide $12.6 million in federal funding to repair and reconstruct Nacimiento-Fergusson Road in South Monterey County, announced Congressman Jimmy Panetta in January.

The mountain road, which connects Highway 1 along the coast to Mission Road near Fort Hunter Liggett, Mission San Antonio and the town of Jolon, serves as a critical emergency access roadway when the coastal highway is unusable.

“Although Highway 1 is the most beautiful road in the nation, it is also one of the most fragile and unreliable roads due to its frequent shutdowns from slides, floods, fires and other weather events,” said Rep. Panetta. “That’s why Nacimiento-Fergusson Road is often the lifeline for many people who live along the Big Sur coast. Unfortunately, in its current condition, Nacimiento-Fergusson is unusable and needs to be immediately repaired.”

Sections of the road located in the Los Padres National Forest were damaged by mudslides and flooding during a major storm in the winter of 2021. Many of those same sections of damaged road were located near or in burn scarred areas that were created by the Dolan Fire in 2020.

Soon after the damage occurred, Panetta requested that the Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads (ERFO) program designate and fund the repairs to the road. ERFO recently allocated the multimillion-dollar funding.

“Nacimiento Road suffered catastrophic damage during the Dolan Fire and post winter storms and has since been inaccessible to everyone, including Big Sur Fire’s emergency vehicles because of the dangerous conditions,” said Matt Harris, Big Sur Fire chief. “Congressman Panetta recognized the importance of this road and the significant role it plays in Big Sur Fire’s ability to effectively respond to emergencies in Big Sur. Thanks to Congressman Panetta’s leadership, he helped facilitate this much-needed funding award to repair the damage and restore access to not only the traveling public but emergency responders.”

Nacimiento-Fergusson Road connects Highway 1 along the coast to Mission Road near Fort Hunter Liggett, Mission San Antonio and the town of Jolon in South Monterey County. (Contributed)

With ERFO designation and the funds awarded, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) can start the construction process. Moving forward, FHA will begin project design efforts in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the constructing agency to report all potential environmental side effects of proposed federal agency actions.

In addition, FHA will work with relevant regulatory agencies to request all necessary permits for the project, particularly the State of California, which will also have to issue water permits for construction to begin. Once these permits are granted and the regulatory design processes are approved, the Department of Transportation and FHA will oversee the entire construction process in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service’s initial ERFO funding request.

According to the initial FHA work plan, the final preliminary design process will be completed by the end of this year, with a final construction completion date of December 2023.

“Congressman Panetta played an instrumental role working with the Federal Highway Administration to secure emergency funding for storm-damage repairs to Nacimiento-Fergusson Road,” said Tim Short, Monterey District Ranger for Los Padres National Forest. “We are grateful for the Congressman’s ongoing support and assistance.”

Panetta said he is committed to “ensuring this timeline is adhered to, or even expedited, in order for this lifeline to be rebuilt and reopened as quickly and safely as possible.” The Congressman’s office is planning to meet on a regular basis with both the Forest Service and FHA to receive regular updates and continue to press the agencies to restore Nacimiento-Fergusson Road as soon as possible.

“I’m proud that I was able to secure this federal funding to fix this road, but more work needs to be done by many at all levels of government so that people, including our emergency services, can regularly rely on and use the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road,” Panetta said.