Rain Rocks Rock Shed & Pitkins Curve Bridge
The Rain Rocks Rock Shed and the Pitkins Curve Bridge are beautiful solutions to the instability of some of the hillsides along Highway 1 on the Big Sur coast. Well thought out and equally well engineered, these new structures will soon rival the Bixby Bridge as some of the most photographed structures on the Pacific Coast Highway.
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.
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.
Any place with a name like “Rain Rocks” is bound to be a problem area.
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.
Rain Rocks Rock Shed and Pitkins Curve Bridge Quick Facts:
- Location: Big Sur coast on California Highway 1 (aka Cabrillo Highway or Pacific Coast Highway; .5 miles north of Limekiln Creek and 1.5 miles south of Lucia. Between mile markers Mon 21.3 and 21.6
- 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.
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!
A highway project with its own logo!