The wrecking ball continues to drop on the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge in Big Sur. pic.twitter.com/hYNWSvd6sF— Tommy Wright (@WrightScribe) March 13, 2017
Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge in Big Sur, which buckled and threatened to collapse into the canyon after the area was battered by winter storms the last two months causing many landslides, has been closed to traffic since February 12 and today is being demolished. Caltrans workers brought in a wrecking ball and the process is just beginning as of 11:30 a.m. Monday, and we'll bring you photos as soon as we have them.
The Mercury News explains that demolition debris is going to fall into the canyon below and be quickly broken up and removed to a recycling facility.
Meanwhile exploratory drilling by geotechnical experts has already begun as Caltrans is putting together plans for a new bridge to span the canyon, but completion of the project isn't expected for nine to twelve months, during which time Big Sur tourism will likely take a hit, particularly from Northern Californians who will need to take an extremely long detour to access the majority of the scenic stretch of Highway 1.
The LA Times explains the detour, which isn't yet available to drivers coming from the south or north because another portion of Highway 1 remains closed in both directions near Lucia due to an earlier landslide.
Caltrans hopes to reopen the southern portion of Highway 1 to vehicle traffic this Thursday morning, from Ragged Point to Big Sur Station, finally ending the isolation of Big Sur residents, who have had to either hike out of the area on foot, fly by helicopter to Monterey, or wait for special deliveries of supplies to arrive at designated times.
A new trail has also been cut that allows residents only to hike from the southern part of Big Sur, around Pfeiffer Canyon, to reach the northern end of the area in about 30 minutes, but for now it only opens three times a day for 15-minute increments.
As residents were telling the Mercury News last week, the current situation is different than in natural disasters in previous years which have cut off the Big Sur community from the rest of the world, because this time the community's been split in half. It also means that most of the community in the southern portion of Big Sur that's accustomed to doing their shopping and other activities in Monterey now have to drive much further south to Paso Robles for the next year. "South of the downed bridge are the fire station; post office; and Big Sur’s famous but now-shuttered retreats like Nepenthe restaurant, Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, Post Ranch Inn, Ventana Inn and the Esalen Institute," explains the Merc. "To the north: schools, medical care, grocery stores, hardware stores, livestock supplies and almost all the locals’ homes."
Meanwhile, there isn't even going to be much for tourists to see for a good few months as the state parks clean up from winter storm damage, and several remain closed since the Soberanes Fire last year, including much of Garapata State Park, Andrew Molera State Park, and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The latter two are expected to reopen, possibly, by June.
Update: Monterey Herald reporter Tommy Wright, who provided the vide above on Twitter, reports that crews are dropping the wrecking ball onto the deck of the bridge and creating cracks for a more precise demolition.
The wrecking ball is now on the crane as crews prepare to demolish the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge in Big Sur. pic.twitter.com/xFqtpsdhA1— Tommy Wright (@WrightScribe) March 13, 2017
The Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge demolition in Big Sur has begun. pic.twitter.com/tezZo7ejUw— Tommy Wright (@WrightScribe) March 13, 2017
Cracks are visible in the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, but no holes. Caltrans says it wants a precise demolition of the bridge. pic.twitter.com/pWPPFFRYOP— Tommy Wright (@WrightScribe) March 13, 2017