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The PCH keeps crumbling in Big Sur. Why fix it?




Cyclists cross Bixby Bridge as they compete in Stage 4 of the AMGEN Tour of California on February 22, 2007 near Big Sur, California.
Cyclists cross Bixby Bridge as they compete in Stage 4 of the AMGEN Tour of California on February 22, 2007 near Big Sur, California.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

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Driving the Pacific Coast Highway near Big Sur means you'll have one of the most incredible views in California.

But you can't really do it right now.

Recent storms sent one bridge crumbling into the canyon below, and a landslide to bury another part of the route under 80 feet of dirt and rock.

Both will take at least months for Caltrans to repair and replace.

So why do it?

Lisa Krieger, science writer for the Mercury News, has been asking the same thing.

The road's been closed at least 60 times for weather-related repairs in its history.

"Even before it was christened in 1935, there was a slide," she says, "and then back in 1941, you can hear the local officials questioning, 'Is this really such a good idea?'"

It was originally built for the local and rural population to get around.

"And that was an era when there was a whole lot of interest in big works projects, so the road went ahead," says Krieger.

The terrain, however, makes it both vulnerable to weather events and difficult to repair.

But it's become a notable tourist attraction for the state.

"Build it, and they will come. And that's what happened," she says. "This is road that we have and we really love."

And the local economy is hurting with this section of the PCH out of commission.

All of the businesses in Big Sur are losing an estimated $300,000 per day in revenue, according to the local Chamber of Commerce. 

Krieger believes, however, that the public's love for the PCH will outweigh most cost concerns.

"People really love it too much," she says. "It'll be one of these beautiful ongoing headaches that we're committed to, for better or worse."