BIG SUR, Calif. – Almost all the hotels, restaurants and state parks cut off when a bridge on the Central California coast crumbled last month remain closed, but Kurt Mayer chose to keep his deli and taproom open — even though it’s costing him.
Heavy rains this winter damaged the span on iconic Highway 1 beyond repair, splitting the touristy Big Sur area in two and stranding more than 400 residents on one side. Visitors have been blocked from reaching part of the community known for its luxury spas, posh hotels and scenic retreats.
For Mayer, the bridge closure means a six-hour, round-trip route several times a week to buy goods to stock the shelves. He also had to temporarily lay off 11 of his 16 employees.
Yet he’s keeping his doors open for locals who need produce, milk and propane.
“They support me all year long, and I appreciate it,” Mayer said. “In the bad times, you’ve got to try to come through for the people who come through for you all the time.”
The damaged Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge sits on an active landslide, which pushed out one of two columns holding it up.
Nine days after the demolition began, crews brought down the final span of the condemned Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge on Wednesday afternoon.
Contractors and Caltrans engineers used a hoe ram, a hydraulic breaker attached to an excavator, to bring down the southern span just as they did with the other two spans. Caltrans will continue to break up the bridge debris and separate it into concrete, steel rebar and wood to be recycled over the coming days.
“They’re breaking it up so they can haul it off — there’s a lot of it,” Caltrans spokeswoman Susana Cruz said.
The center span fell on Saturday and the northern span was demolished March 16.
The new bridge will be a columnless, single-span steel plate girder bridge that Caltrans plans on completing in six months, weather permitting. The steel for the bridge is currently being fabricated at Mare Island and should start arriving in May.
Golden State Bridge of Benicia, the contractor that demolished the bridge, will build the new structure. Caltrans says the combined cost of demolition and construction will be about $21 million.
All businesses north of the bridge are open. Highway 1 is closed at Big Sur Station in the north and the southern closure is at Ragged Point in northern San Luis Obispo County. This week’s rain had no effect on the Highway 1 closures.
The bridge closure split Big Sur into two, leaving those in the south effectively stuck on an island because of the highway closure to their south. Establishments in southern Big Sur like Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn and Nepenthe Restaurant remain closed.
Local volunteers along with State Parks employees and California Conservation Corps members have nearly completed a footpath circumventing the bridge to allow residents to make it between the northern and southern parts of Big Sur.
Nacimiento-Fergusson Road reopened to the public Monday, allowing travel to Gorda in the south and Limekiln State Park to the north.
Residents have access between Ragged Point and Limekiln State Park and from north of Paul’s Slide to just south of Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge between 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Caltrans installed gates on Highway 1 at the south end of Mud Creek, the north end of Mud Creek, the north end of Limekiln Creek Bridge and the north end of Hermitage wall last week to allow for the storage on construction equipment, though emergency vehicles have access to the locked gates overnight.
Residents will be allowed through at Paul’s Slide and Mud Creek on Fridays, 5:30 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 7:30 p.m. Public access is not expected until at least May, with only a low probability of access through Paul’s Slide in May.