One lane of Highway 1 at Paul’s Slide in Big Sur reopened July 18 (see story, p. 18), and construction is underway on a new bridge over Pfeiffer Canyon, expected to open this fall. Meanwhile, a five-mile stretch of Palo Colorado Road is still at least a year and $10 million from reopening, says Enrique Saavedra, Monterey County’s acting chief of public works assigned to roads and bridges.
In January, heavy rains caused Rocky Creek to overflow, redirecting the river over Palo Colorado Road at mile marker 3.3.
“We are looking to start the evaluation on that section later this summer, but that area will need to make it through the winter,” Saavedra says. “It’s pretty impressive what Mother Nature can do.”
Since January, Saavedra says, Monterey County has spent nearly $1 million to repair that section with a temporary bridge. A permanent repair will cost about $2.5 million.
About 75 percent of that spending is eligible for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but that is a lengthy process that requires permits from federal agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The paved part of Palo Colorado Road dead-ends at Bottcher’s Gap, a U.S. Forest Service campground. On June 20, Monterey County Supervisor Mary Adams, a rep from Congressman Jimmy Panetta’s office and Brent Heberlee, the county’s lobbyist in Washington, met with Forest Service officials. One topic of discussion: transferring the next 1.5 miles of Palo Colorado Road from the feds to the county. “Intuitively, it would be a good idea,” Adams says. “But it’s very difficult for us to bring on more [compromised] roads.”