Big Sur, Califoria. The wrecking ball didn’t do much damage Monday as technical issues delayed the demolition of the condemned Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge on Highway 1.
The contractors tasked with the demolition had trouble getting the Liebherr crawler crane’s free-fall function operating properly as they tried to slam the wrecking ball into the bridge.
“The crane, in its current configuration, will not free fall the wrecking ball with the required force needed,” said Susana Cruz, a Caltrans spokeswoman, in an email. “New parts have been ordered and should arrive (Tuesday).”
Work could resume on the demolition as soon as Wednesday morning, depending on the delivery and assembly of the new parts.
David Galarza, Caltrans’ structure representative for the project, said crews disconnected the bridge’s metal railing in preparation for the demolition.
“Everything’s in place for it to go, but some of these new cranes have a lot of different safety features on them and they’re all computerized,” he said.
Galarza said the crew has specific locations identified where they can expose the primary reinforcement and cut it.
“That should assist with the bridge dropping in a location we want it to,” he said.
As soon as crews work out all of the kinks, Galarza said the demolition should take two days at most.
Rather than swing the 6,000-pound wrecking ball with the crane’s 305-foot boom, the operator dropped it on the bridge from about 5-feet high once work got started at about 12:30 p.m. Monday. By dropping the ball instead of swinging it, crews avoided nearby power lines. Jim Shivers, a Caltrans spokesman, said it’s also part of the strategy to bring the structure down in a controlled, methodical way.
“There’s precision when we build these things and there’s precision when we take them down,” he said.
At times the free-fall drops looked and sounded more like taps. The wrecking ball cracked parts of the bridge and chipped away at some of the concrete, but the structure remained standing with only minor additional damage.
Caltrans officials announced Feb. 21 the bridge was beyond repair and would need to be removed and replaced. Fractures to the bridge and one of its support piers were first noticed in early February and the bridge was closed shortly after. A landslide under the bridge caused damage to the structure.
Caltrans hired contractor Golden State Bridge to demolish the current bridge and to install the new one. Galarza said the new structure will be a single-span steel plate girder bridge. It will have two abutments and no support piers in the slide area. Caltrans expects the new bridge to be completed in nine to 12 months. The first steel sections of the new bridge are expected to arrive in May.
East of the demolition, construction continued Monday on an access trail through Pfeiffer Canyon for residents to circumvent the condemned bridge. “They’re just continuing on building steps and trying to improve the trail and get it ready so the residents can use it,” said Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief Martha Karstens.
About half of the half-mile footpath had already been put in by Sunday night. Members of the California Conservation Corps hauled wood up the trail as work continued on steps up steeper sections of the trail. Sgt. Mike Dippel of State Parks said the trail remains on track to be completed in about five weeks.
Tommy Wright can be reached at 831-726-4375.