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Big Sur Bridge Rollout Installation Begins

Monday, August 28, 2017

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New steel girders were launched via rollers at the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge in Big Sur, California, early last week, setting the stage for the completion of the bridge replacement project.

This new step for the California bridge marked the most dangerous phase of the project, noted KSBW8, which involves moving the girders across the Pfeiffer Canyon a few inches at a time.

Bridge Launch Process

In order to maneuver the 900-ton set of 15 girders safely across the canyon, Caltrans, along with contractor Golden State Bridge, engineered a cable system that pulled the girders along rollers on either side of the canyon. The girders were also braced by a temporary launch tower.

The "roller launch" or "incremental launch" method is a form of accelerated bridge construction developed 40 years ago, but is still relatively uncommon.


New steel girders were installed for the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge in Big Sur, California, early last week, setting the stage for the completion of the bridge.

“They are huge pieces of metal, and moving them seems like a daunting thing, but the contractor has the necessary equipment to do that,” David Galarza, a Caltrans employee, told KSBW8.

The girders were assembled on the canyon’s north side, with 14,000 bolts holding them together.

Pfeiffer Canyon itself is just over 300 feet wide, which means that, with the many stops to take measurements and adjust accordingly, the process of getting the girders across to the other side took some time.

“The pull rate ranges from 10 to 20 feet an hour when we are actually pulling, but we have to make stops along the way,” said Galarza.

As of Tuesday (Aug. 22), the girders were successfully landed, and had reached the launch tower. Once the bridge has come to rest on the southside abutment, crews will then lower the bridge into place with jacks, followed by the concrete decking.

Bridge Damage

The original Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was taken out of commission by runoff-triggered landslides, and was closed on Feb. 11, being completely demolished March 16-22.

While some remained hopeful that the bridge would open by the end of September, as local tourism had already taken a $15 million hit because of the closure of Highway 1, it is possible the date will be pushed back.

“Our original goal was end of September, but now we are thinking it may be a little bit longer than that,” Galarza said.


Tagged categories: Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC); Bridges; Caltrans; Construction; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management

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