Public Comments on Cal Trans bridge railings

Today I and others read this article in the MCWeekly, regarding proposed bridge “improvements” in Big Sur and realize that we ALL must make our voices heard. None of these proposals are in line with the Big Sur Land Use Plan to preserve the aesthetics of this highway.

Caltrans is accepting input until 1/15/21. I sent a very abbreviated one in:
“Our iconic bridges are a big part of what Big Sur is. These bridges shape the experience of the traveling public and lodge in one’s mind the beauty and aesthetics of this coast. I urge you to design a way to save these historic and picturesque bridges as they were meant to be.”

Here is the letter Martha Diehl sent:

This email serves as a formal request to be included as an interested party for all phases of the two projects identified below. Contact information is provided at the end of this email.

Tier 1—Big Sur Bridge Rail Replacement Program
Monterey County, California District 5–Mon–1 (PM 28.1/67.9)
Tier 2—Garrapata Creek Bridge Rail Replacement Project
Monterey County, California District 5–Mon–1 (PM 63.0)
EA 05-1H800/Project ID 05-1600-0163 State Clearinghouse Number 2020049027

Please provide the following technical reports:

Water Quality Assessment
Natural Environment Study Minimal Impacts Tier 1 and Tier 2 >Historic Property Survey Report Tier 1 and Tier 2
Historic Resource Evaluation Report
Archaeological Survey Report
Visual Impact Assessment

Further, please submit the following questions about the Draft Environmental Impact Reports and include these comments  in the project records:

1) How many people annually view, photograph, paint, visit or otherwise experience the Garrapata Bridge and the other historic bridges listed? How many vehicles crossed Garrapata Bridge during 2020? How many vehicles of what varieties are anticipated to cross the bridge annually in future years? Absent this information, how can the identified significant visual/aesthetic impacts of the proposed project be appropriately analytically weighted when comparing alternatives? 

2) Is the design proposed for the Garrapata Bridge intended for use on all listed bridge rail replacements? Is there a stated commitment to ensuring that the bridges continue to be visually consistent?

3) How will construction of the proposed project impact public access to heavily used Garrapata Beach, including parking and ongoing traffic management?  Traffic conditions in the immediate vicinity of the Garrapata Bridge are intermittently and increasingly impassable and unsafe. This is also the case for others of the historic bridges included in the overall project level analysis. Specifically what analysis supports the determination that the identified potential temporary construction related traffic impacts will not be significant (see DEIR table p vii traffic& transportation)? 

4) How exactly were the proposed projects determined to be consistent with the Big Sur Land Use Plan and the Coast Highway Management Plan? How were the goals and priorities that caused this road section to be designated as a Scenic Byway and one of our country’s first federally recognized All-American Roads considered? Please provide complete analysis methods, process and results.

5) What specific alternative railing designs were considered? Were non-standard design options more consistent with preserving the unique visual character included, as is allowed in the CHMP? What specific criteria were used to select the current proposed design? Was an exact replica of the current railings (or an exact replica with added height sufficient to address stated safety concerns) made with updated structural materials evaluated among the alternatives? If so please provide these analyses. If not please perform them.

6) How many injury accidents related to the existing railing structure or design have occurred in the history of these bridges? This information will assist in determining the relative importance of proposed upgraded safety requirements to the almost inestimable value of the current bridge aesthetics. 

7) What efforts have been made to engage immediate neighbors or easement holders in the project vicinity wrt impacts during construction? How will nearby residents’ access be affected by proposed construction?

8) Have other projects such as bridge-related maintenance or utility upgrade needs been considered wrt proposed project timing? Given the current ongoing severe traffic congestion in this area, can schedules for all reasonably foreseeable infrastructure projects in this vicinity be coordinated so as to avoid multiple sequential project traffic flow impacts? 

Thank you for the opportunity to review the DEIR and comment. I look forward to the responses.


Martha Diehl
Garrapata Trout Farm

Here is another one:


Dear Mr. Wilkinson,

I recently learned that Caltrans is seeking feedback on current plans for repairing/replacing bridge guard railings in Big Sur.

As a 15-year resident of Big Sur, I was incredibly disappointed with the work that was done last year to “improve” various guard rails along Highway 1. The new concrete railing structures are completely out of character with the historic beauty of the highway and its pre-existing stone guard rails. The new smooth concrete barriers are a complete travesty! Their military-bunker aesthetic has significantly degraded the appearance of the highway and are not in keeping with the area’s Land Use Plan, which lists preservation of the road’s visual beauty and character as one of its principal objectives. I understand that the old railings may have needed to be repaired, extended, or improved. However, the manner in which it was done shows a complete disregard for preservation and the visual impact on the natural environment. It is completely infuriating to see my tax dollars spent in that way. In my opinion, those new barriers/railings are hideous and should be torn out and re-done with an appropriate visual aesthetic.

In keeping with that perspective, I am completely opposed to any additional work on any other bridge or guard railings that alter the character of the existing structures. That opposition includes the proposed alterations to the appearance of the bridges at Malpaso Creek, Granite Canyon, Garrapata Creek, Rocky Creek, Bixby Creek, and Big Creek. Any bridge railing repairs or improvements need to retain the character of the original balusters and continue to provide an open, see-through appearance.

I am happy to discuss further via email or by phone if you desire.

Thank you for your consideration.
Carl Swanson
Big Sur