Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge

Kirk Siegler/NPR

Rush hour in Big Sur, Calif., has taken on a whole new meaning.

Most mornings and afternoons, a newly built footpath that plunges through a grove of towering redwoods is clogged with workers and schoolchildren.

That hiking trail is a lifeline. It circumnavigates a bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway that has been closed since February, after it collapsed from rain and mudslides. Without that path, much of the village of Big Sur would be cut off from the outside world.

Greta Mart/KCBX

The Big Sur area has been losing tourism business over the past year due to a series of natural disasters. It started with last summer’s Sobranes Fire, which set records as the the costliest American wildfire in terms of the resources it took to put out. Then heavy winter rains caused road closures due to mudslides and the condemnation of the Pfieffer Canyon Bridge. Then came the massive landslide that wreaked havoc on the area last Saturday. 

Courtesy of John Madonna Construction

Four different landslides rolled into one buried California's famous coastal highway under millions of tons of earth and rocks last Saturday night at Mud Creek. Located eight miles north of Ragged Point - where Hwy. 1 has been closed to Big Sur-bound traffic for months - the slide brought down enough dirt to extend the current shoreline by 250 feet. State Route 1 now lies under about 35 feet of dirt for a quarter mile. 

Hefty jackhammer takes down Big Sur bridge

Mar 20, 2017
Courtesy of CalTrans

Work continues this week on the demolition of Monterey County’s Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge on Highway 1. On Saturday, a CalTrans crew succeeded at bringing down the whole middle section of the bridge in one spectacular crash.

CalTrans

CalTrans sent engineers out Wednesday to evaluate how to completely demolish the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, after a wrecking ball failed to break through the bridge Monday. 

Courtesy of CalTrans

In Monterey County, a Caltrans crew spent Tuesday afternoon evaluating the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, just north of Big Sur Pfeiffer State Park. The bridge was closed last week due to damage from the recent rains. Since then, the saturated, sliding land underneath has moved the bridge seven inches. 

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, FEB. 22, 2017: Caltrans says the bridge is beyond repair and will have to be replaced entirely.