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Report: California's Bridges Crumbling -- and San Francisco's Are the Worst

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 05:19 PM

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) A new report by transit advocacy group Transportation for America provides a sobering assessment of the condition of California's bridges: in short, not good.The report finds that one in eight bridges are structurally deficient in some way. In the Bay Area, that number rises to one in five; in San Francisco, it's more than one in three.

County Number of bridges Number of structurally deficient bridges Percentage of bridges that are structurally deficient Average annual daily traffic on structurally deficient bridges
San Francisco 116 40 34.5% 2,569,899
Alameda 601 130 21.6% 5,608,117
San Mateo 344 74 21.5% 3,064,075
Sonoma 601 121 20.1% 737,485
Santa Clara 939 182 19.4% 5,804,761
Contra Costa 560 105 18.8% 3,241,193
Marin 199 31 15.6% 1,117,587
Napa 150 23 15.3% 80,153

A bridge is considered "structurally deficient" when one of three bridge components – deck, superstructure, or substructure – receives a poor grade on a federal scale. The worst bridges receive low grades across the board. Of the 40 San Francisco bridges deemed structurally deficient, city officials oversee only five; four of those are currently slated for repair. Caltrans and other agencies are responsible for the rest.  The bridges that received the lowest rankings were by the Caltrain station at 22nd and 23rd Streets; the most highly-traveled structurally deficient bridge was the 5th St./Hwy 101 bridge.

The report did not assess the state's biggest, most iconic bridges – neither the Bay Bridge nor the Golden Gate bridge were included. Instead, it looked at the thousands of workaday bridges that most motorists hardly think of: the highway on-ramps and overpasses that connect freeways and surface streets. These bridges are, on average, just over 44 years old – slightly older than the national average of 42 years. Most bridges are designed to last roughly 50 years.

The report notes that though California's bridges rank in the bottom third nationally, the state has used up all available federal funding to try and address the problem, even going so far as to shift funds designated for other purposes. The state spent $907 million on bridge repair in 2008. The report notes that across the country, repair needs far outstrip available funds: while funding has increased by $650 million over the past several years, the need has increased by $22.8 billion.

Read the full report here.

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