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6,000-pound wrecking ball couldn’t bring down cracked, collapsing Big Sur bridge

Construction crews attempt to use a wrecking ball to demolish the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge on Highway 1 on Monday in Big Sur. Work was halted because the wrecking ball was not generating enough force.
Construction crews attempt to use a wrecking ball to demolish the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge on Highway 1 on Monday in Big Sur. Work was halted because the wrecking ball was not generating enough force. The Associated Press

Everyone was prepared for the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge to come falling down Monday evening, as Caltrans crews began demolition of the cracked Highway 1 bridge that connects Big Sur to the rest of the outside world.

Unfortunately, the 6,000-pound wrecking ball and 23-foot-wide crane just weren’t getting the job done.

“What was happening was 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.

Demolition on the bridge has now been halted until later in the week, when crews expect to come up with a plan to increase the force behind the steel wrecking ball, Shivers said, possibly through changes to the crane or positioning.

Amid recent storms, the structure — which connects the Big Sur village farther north to the southern half of the community — 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.

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.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie

Take in the beauty of the Central Coast with these aerial views of Big Sur, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, San Simeon and Moonstone Beach in Cambria, filmed in May 2016.

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