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Landslide moves Big Sur bridge seven inches and counting

Courtesy of CalTrans
The ground encasing the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge's support columns is unstable and sliding.

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. 

Caltrans spokesperson Jim Shivers says the agency is looking at replacement options. While the bridge is closed indefinitely, Caltrans is working on creating access for the few hundreds local residents in that area, some of whom have been stuck by the bridge closure. Highway 1 will be open for local access only south of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge to San Luis Obispo for specific times on Friday and Saturday. Caltrans will reconfirm these times later in the week, but Shivers says the plan right now is for a local access road to be open Friday, Feb. 24 from noon until 5 p.m. and on Saturday, Feb. 25 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. After 5 p.m. on Saturday, that local access route will be closed due to another forecasted storm. KCBX will update this story on our website as further information becomes available.

With the movement, cracks have appeared in several areas of the bridge. Caltrans spokesperson Jim Shivers says the bridge is closed indefinitely, and it’s too soon to say how much repair will need to happen. The bridge is a vital roadway to residents of Big Sur Village.

“There are basically slides occurring around the bridge columns. And there is some separation of soil from the column itself. It’s all dependent upon how much rain we get,” Shivers said.

With the high amount of rain and resulting landslides and road damage, Caltrans has been overloaded for the past six weeks, said Shivers.

“This has probably been the busiest time I think I can ever recall,” he said.

Caltrans recommends avoiding Highway 1 north of San Simeon all together for the time being. For local residents stuck by the closed bridge, the San Francisco Chronicle reportssome hired helicopters as their only way out of the area.

Here is a message from the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services sent Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 to area residents: "To Big Sur residents: Caltrans working to open resupply access for those isolated by bridge failure south from Big Sur to SLO February 24th and 25th. We will post any updates. Key points: Main concern point is Paul’s Slide location – due to narrow road bed and delicate condition of area, no articulated vehicles, semis, tractor trailers or vehicles in excess of 30’ will be provided access. Small propane and fuel trucks will be allowed access as long as vehicle length is no more than 30’. Trucks and high clearance vehicles are recommended for passage on Highway 1 between Big Creek and Ragged Point. After this weekend’s weather event passes and Caltrans has been able to re-assess road conditions, next opportunity for access to both local and public traffic on Highway 1 will be evaluated. ·Currently, there is local access from Ragged Point to Big Creek. Additionally, the CHP has asked that vendors, delivery vehicles, and contractors be able to provide names and addresses of clients so that traffic officers can ensure that these vehicles should be allowed into locals only access areas."