Bay Area Bridges In Dangerously Bad Shape, Says New Report

10/20/2011 02:36 pm ET | Updated Dec 20, 2011
  • Aaron Sankin Assistant San Francisco Editor, The Huffington Post

According to a new report by a Washington-based advocacy group, many bridges around the San Francisco Bay Area are in woeful shape.

Analyzing data from the Federal Highway Administration, Transportation For America released a study entitled The Fix We're In For: The State of Our Nation's Busiest Bridges that held a dire warning not just for the Bay Area, but for the entire nation—invest in transportation infrastructure now or pay the price.

Both San Francisco and San Jose rated near the top of the list for major metropolitan areas with the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges. Nearly 30 percent of San Francisco bridges and 18.7 percent of San Jose bridges didn't pass inspection. The only areas with over one million people with a higher percentage than San Jose were Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Some of the worst-performing bridges—which entail all elevated structures—in The City include the Central Viaduct of Highway 101, an off-ramp at 13th and Folsom streets that carries nearly 140,000 vehicles each day, the Third Street span at AT&T Park and the Geneva Avenue overpass near the Balboa Park BART Station.

On the positive side, the region's highest-traffic spans, the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, passed muster. Both are currently undergoing major seismic retrofits.

While the "structurally deficient" designation doesn't necessarily mean a bridge is in imminent danger of collapse, it does suggest that the relevant transit agency in charge of the bridge should, at the very least, limit traffic and/or immediately make significant repairs to the structure.

"I do think we have some serious challenges before us," Randy Rentschler of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission told KTVU. "This is essentially people ignoring a basic infrastructure fact, which is things don't last forever."

The report found one in nine bridges nationwide to be "structurally deficient." These dangerous bridges are traversed by 210 million people every day—most of which occur in major metropolitan areas.

The analysis takes Congress to task for paying lip service to the need for infrastructure reinvestment in the nation's bridges but "existing federal programs offer no real incentives or assurances that aging bridges will actually get fixed...The current level of investment is nowhere near what is needed to keep up with our rapidly growing backlog of aging bridges."