Update: Caltrans officials reported Thursday afternoon that demolition of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge had resumed the day before “and will continue until complete.” All businesses north of the bridge are open to the public, as are those from Ragged Point south. However, due to the nature of the construction activities, access will be subject to change on a regular basis. Rain and the results from it also are likely to affect access.
As of early Wednesday morning, March 15, the damaged Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge in Big Sur was still standing, sort of, having defied initial attempts by Caltrans crews to knock down the structure.
Unfortunately, the 6,000-pound wrecking ball swung by a 23-foot-wide crane just didn’t have enough oomph to break the bridge’s supports, or, according to some Big Sur residents, the structure’s Big Sur stubbornness.
“The wrecking ball was more gently tapping the deck of the bridge, and not getting the force we really needed it to,” Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers said.
Caltrans halted the demo project until later in the week, after crews devise a plan to increase the force behind the steel wrecking ball, Shivers said, possibly through changes to the crane or positioning.
It’s expected to take at least six months to construct a new bridge. Caltrans does not have a price estimate yet for the new bridge, contracted by Golden State Engineering and designed by Caltrans Structure Design, but the construction could cost between $20 million and $30 million.
Early Wednesday, Shivers said the plan was that “a bridge technician, who specializes in how this crane operates, will be onsite this morning with our engineers and Golden State engineers. We’re hopeful he (the technician) can help us find a path that would lead us to resume the demolition. If we can find that path this morning, there’s a chance work could resume later today, (but) that’s an ‘if.’”
Amid recent storms, the structure — which connects the Big Sur village farther north to the southern half of the community — had shifted several feet and received fractures to two of its three columns. Officials said the bridge was “damaged beyond repair” and declared a permanent closure in mid-February until the sagging and cracking structure could be replaced.
Caltrans has kept other portions of the historic, scenic highway closed while crews clear landslides and rockfalls that had blocked or damaged the road.
On Tuesday, March 14, the agency reopened another 15 miles of the highway north of the damaged bridge, but the community of Big Sur continues to be split in half. The closure point south of the bridge remains at Ragged Point.