Demolition work started Monday on a crumbling bridge along the California coast that has stranded residents in the popular Big Sur area and closed part of iconic Highway 1, but it was quickly suspended, officials said.

A giant crane dropped a 6,000-pound wrecking ball on the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge for about three hours, but it only gently tapped the unstable span, California Department of Transportation spokesman Jim Shivers said.


“The wrecking ball today just didn’t impact the pavement with the power that we had anticipated,” he said.

Engineers were trying to figure out how the wrecking ball can have the needed force to demolish the overpass. Work will resume later this week, Shivers said.

Heavy rain in January and February damaged the bridge beyond repair, stranding more than 400 residents on one side. Helicopters are bringing in food, and people can use a footpath a few times a day to cross the divide.

Caltrans said the bridge will take at least nine months to rebuild, keeping tourists from the community known for its luxury spas, posh hotels and scenic retreats. The area is also without law enforcement and public services.

Officials hope to make a portion of the Highway 1 passable for locals only later this month.

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