Photo selection for the week of August 22-28, 2014
After a four year period of construction, the Rain Rocks Rock Shed and Pitkins Curve Bridge opened officially in January of 2014.
In order to fully understand why these unusual highway improvements are here, it's necessary to look back at what regularly happened to the road at this point, especially during rainy years.
First of all, any place with a name like "Rain Rocks" is bound to be a problem area.
This stretch of road, just 0.3 miles long, was one of the most expensive bits of highway to maintain in all of California. Carting away all that fallen rock, restoring the roadway and putting in makeshift solutions to keep the rocks and cars separated cost Caltrans over $1 million each year. Other places in Big Sur only cost $10-20K per year.
Having all that debris in the roadway also meant that traffic was completely stopped in the area or subject to long delays.
There is no "alternate route" here except going all the way around on Highway 101; a "fix" that meant at least an additional 100 miles.
Several times the road was completely closed for over a month. Not good for visitors or residents (Yes, there are a few fortunate folks living here).
Looking at the aerial photo above, you can see how much hillside there is yet to fall. Unstable in dry times, it weakens terribly during the wet winter season.
Previous short-term solutions to hold back the hillside with heavy netting didn't work well. The current solution is to let the rocks fall, but in such a way that they pass over or under the roadway and down to the beach.
GPS coordinates: 36.011331, -121.524956
Project completion: January 2014
Project cost: $39 million
Rock shed length: 240 feet
Bridge length: 625 feet
Uniqueness: Only rock shed of its type in the western US
The photo above shows the completed project from a great perspective. There is a set of photos of the construction by one of the engineering firms that gives you an idea of the size and complexity of the job involved - click here.
A view of the interior of the Rock Shed. Note that the concrete structure has been made to appear as if it were fashioned from large stone blocks. The next photo shows a closer look at the Pitkins Curve bridge showing a matching faux stone detail along its side. Nice work indeed!