Highway 1 Bridge fails cutting off Big Sur

California is having a tough 2017. First the Oroville Dam spillway and now a key bridge connecting Big Sur.

Any California dopers here? Want to check in?

They plan to demolish the bridge Monday (3/13).

A question to the locals. Why can’t the small towns of Cambria and Lucia serve as alternate shopping? Can’t the local grocery stores stock more items? A small store (limited shelf space) might need to reorder from their wholesale jobber more frequently. But the increased sales would be worth the extra work.

Local Restaurants will probably get new customers and need plans to prepare more meals? That requires ordering more supplies and extra staff. Seems like this will be an economic boom for those small town’s businesses. Until the bridge is fixed.

I don’t know the area. Just speculating.



Here it is on the map, 150 miles S of San Francisco: Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, Big Sur CA.

Google Maps says it’s closed.

That’s a bit far from me but maybe the wife’d be up for an after-church, Sunday afternoon drive and walk around the area. We’ll see!

I live near San Jose, but spend a lot of time in the Monterey area on the weekends, and this is devastating. Families are cut off from each other, food and suppliers are running low, and it looks like the tourist industry (lifeblood of that area) is dead for at least a year. But the folks who live there are used to adversity, and I have no doubt they will bounce back. Right now, though, it’s pretty bleak! And they were just getting over the effects of that horrific [Soberanes] fire from lasts year, too…

How many people live in that area full time? And it looks like the area is accessible by Highway 1 to the south. So will that be used as the supply route in the interim?

If you “don’t know the area” (which is clear from your statements) on what basis would you speculate about any “economic boom” or feasibility of logistics?

I do know the area very well, having driven up and down the PCH on countless occasions, having stayed in many of the lodgings in and around Big Sur as well as having hiked and camped much of the range, and kayaked from Morro Bay to Piedras Blancas on various legs. The community of Lucia is a tiny unincorporated community consisting of a small cliffside cabin lodging and the New Camaldoli hermitage. The nearest store of any kind is at Gorda, and is really more of a convenience store than anything; the nearest full service grocery and dry goods store is in Cambria, which is seventy miles of torturously serpentine cliffside highway that is great fun in a sport sedan or bike but is a nightmare for even a small refrigerated truck. The only alternative route is the Nacimiento-Furgusson road from Jolon through Ft. Hunter-Liggett over the Santa Lucia range, which is even worse. Fortunately, most of the Big Sur community is north of Pfeiffer Bridge; however, with the closure of the CA-1 at Palo Colorado, the bulk of the Big Sur community (which is heavily dependent upon tourism from Santa Clara and the Bay Area) is basically cut off. This is nothing new to residents, who have experienced closures due to fire and storm damage every few years, but this is particularly bad, coming just at the beginning of the tourism season and with a closure that will prevent critical thru-traffic for the foreseeable future.


My extended family has run small groceries and restaurants for two generations.

I’ve helped them in my younger days. I’ve placed orders for inventory with jobbers. Helped unload the trucks. Put up inventory. And ran the cash register at the store. But not all in one day. :slight_smile:

Its common sense that people will seek out the closest towns to shop. Bridge goes out. They can’t drive north. The article said they can drive South to those towns.

It may take a week or so for the businesses to adjust. They have to see how many new customers come by.

I really was just asking about the article’s odd statement that the small towns can’t meet big sur’s needs.

Of course they can provide the necessities. Groceries, restaurants, gas etc. The businesses just have to adjust their staffing and inventory to meet the demand, until the bridge is replaced.

Shopping malls and big box stores might not be in those towns. But people can get what they need to feed their families.

It’s nearly 13 years since I’ve lived in that area, but maybe I can shed some light. I will confine my comments to Cambria because I am more familiar with it than Lucia – although my recollection of Lucia is that it’s basically a lodge and maybe one of the World’s Most Expensive Gas Stations.

Cambria suffers greatly from a water shortage. Growth of any kind – commercial, residential – is tightly regulated and restricted based on available water, of which there is almost none. I am sure the drought of the past several years has made this situation even worse. For residential building, my recollection is that about 2 new water permits are granted by lottery each year out of a pool of thousands sought.

It’s not just a matter of expanding hours and inventory. It’s a matter of available space and resources. Cambria is a tiny little town with already too many people stuffed into it and almost no resources to serve the needs of those who already live there, let alone hundreds or thousands more relying on them to support their needs for the foreseeable future.

Zero shopping malls, zero big box stores, zero McDonald’s. No drive-through restaurants of any kind. The grocery stores are all small Mom 'n Pop types. No Safeway, no Albertson’s, nothing like that. It’s a boutique town, a springboard for visitors to San Simeon and a tourist wayside. Except for the locals, they expect you drive through it, not stick around.

Folks will have to drive a little further south to Morro Bay (barely more able to handle the situation than Cambria) or San Luis Obispo.

Highway 1 is also closed down at Ragged Point, so there really isn’t an alternate supply route. They’ll figure out a way to support the residents I suppose, but the tourist-based businesses will really suffer.

Thank you Aspenglow. You explained the situation quite well.

It’s much different from small towns in Arkansas. We had only 8,000 people. But there was a couple big chain grocery stores, several restaurants and a few fast food places. The town served most of the rural people in the county.

I’d love to visit California someday. Drive that costal highway and visit the small towns.

Well, that renders the entire issue irrelevant, then. That whole middle section from Ragged Point north to Big Sur is cut off except as noted by Stranger on a Train, by way of the Fergusson-Hunter route, and which I agree is a torment and not really a practical alternative.

I hope you are able to do so. I count it as one of life’s great experiences and feel fortunate to have had that area as my back yard for so many years. It really is stunning. :slight_smile:

This is why large armies develop heavy-lift choppers - the Berlin airlifth was a miracle of engineering - and Berlin had fuel and runways.

Those “5 houses and a general store” towns have no back-up, no heavy roads to handle semi-fulls of supplies.

100 years ago, the US had lots of these kinds of towns. Since WWII, we have now become super-dense urban.

My father was raised in Atlanta - the one in Ohio. Try to find it. And Atlanta was a big town compared to my mother’s home “town”

sigh Big Sur is on the Pacific Coast, geographically isolated from the Central Valley by the Santa Lucia mountain range, with no practical means to build "back-up…heavy roads to handle semi-fulls [sic], nor the protected access to bring in supplies by sea. It is for this reason that it has remained largely pristine and undeveloped (along with local interests opposing selling coastal land to wealthy and celebrities to build giant cliffside mansions blocking the public view as they has so pervasively done in Malibu and Seaside. Please look at a map.


Stranger On A Train, allow me to introduce you to aceplace57.

If you are asking why he is making simplistic speculations based on incomplete information, it is clear that you have not previously met.

It’s like asking a small college town to host the Olympics just because they’ve already got a stadium and a gymnastics center. Hey, there’s even a pool!

The article in the OP states 450 people are cutoff by the bridge damage.

That’s manageable. They’ll come up with some way to supply the residents.

The loss of tourism and local jobs is a big concern. They’ve already started fund raising to help.

I drove down PCH for the first time a couple of years ago from Monterey to where it cuts inland south of Morro Bay. For those who’ve only seen pictures it’s at least as stunning as it looks in pictures, but the driving is quite a chore after awhile, was anyway in the big SUV I drove carrying a bunch of my in laws. Going all the way up from way south just to get to one of the towns near where the bridge is out, then have to drive all the way back, can’t see tourists doing that. They’ll figure some way to supply residents but I assume a lot of jobs in the area depend on tourists.

It’s been 50+ years since I was in Big Sur. Unless a dozen new roads have been built since, if I was south of the broken bridge, I would make a list of important items, then take an all-day trip to Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, or whatever town south I preferred, and stock up for a month at a time.

Not really much different from living in a national forest fire tower in the 1960’s. You send the other half of your family to town once a week for supplies, then shelter in place for the next week. A bit of a hardship, but no one starves.

When I was in Oakland ca. 1960s, many retired military families from the Tahoe & Sierra mountain areas made a monthly pilgrimage to the PX and commissary for staples. They lived a comfortable life as long as they planned carefully and had backup power plans.

No one will die because of the broken bridge.