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How safe are Bay Area bridges?

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2024 | Personal Injury

The devastating collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore this spring renewed concerns for many people who live and work in the Bay Area about the safety of our bridges – some of which are among the most iconic and heavily traveled in the country.

Of course, in addition to the potential for large cargo ships crashing into them, our bridges also have to withstand earthquakes and other extremes, like the growing number of wildfires we’ve experienced in recent years. There’s also the wear and tear of daily commuters and tourists.

Local officials were quick to offer reassurance that the major bridges in the Bay Area, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge, have sound reinforcements to help prevent what happened in Baltimore. In fact, one Caltrans official said that “our bridges do more damage to vessels than the vessels do to bridges.” In 2007, a container ship crashed into the Bay Bridge. While the bridge was damaged, it held.

The FHWA announced last year that $400 million from just the first round of Large Bridge Grants included in the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will go to “place, retrofit and install critical structural elements on the Golden Gate Bridge to increase resiliency against earthquakes.”

Where are the San Francisco bridges rated “poor” by the federal government?

There are 18 lesser-known bridges and overpasses just in San Franciso that have received a “poor” rating from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). All are in the southern part of the city in the Highway 101/Interstate 280 corridor and the responsibility of Caltrans. Many date back some 60 years.

This “poor” rating means that some parts of them have “widespread moderate or isolated major defects” that affect their strength and/or performance. While that certainly isn’t a rating anyone wants, there are worse ratings – with “imminent failure” and “failed” at the bottom.

Most Bay Area residents can’t avoid crossing one or more of these bridges nearly every day. They don’t have the luxury of determining which are unsafe and avoiding those. However, if you’ve been injured due to an infrastructure failure or lack of maintenance, it’s crucial to determine what your options are for holding government entities liable in order to get the justice and compensation you deserve.