San Francisco bridges ranked worst in California 

Local motorists might want to cross their fingers when traveling over The City’s network of bridges.

San Francisco County has the worst-rated bridges in the state, with nearly 35 percent of the spans deemed structurally deficient, according to a new report from Transportation For America, a national nonprofit transportation advocacy group.

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.

Overall, 40 of San Francisco’s 116 bridges were deemed deficient, a rate of 34.5 percent, which is three times worse than the national average. Neither the Golden Gate Bridge nor the Bay Bridge were deemed deficient, however.

Rankings for the bridges came from Federal Highway Administration data, which rated spans on three categories — decks, superstructures and substructures. Decks carry the cars, superstructures support the decks, and substructures use the ground to support the superstructures.

Those facets are graded on a scale of 0 to 9, and if any of the three categories get a ranking of 4 or lower, the bridge is deemed structurally deficient. That designation doesn’t necessarily mean the spans are unsafe, but it does mean the agencies that maintain the bridges either have to limit traffic, make immediate repairs or close down the structure.

David Goldberg, spokesman for Transportation for America, said San Francisco faces unique challenges fixing its bridges because its infrastructure is so old and heavily traveled.

“These bridges take a terrific pounding from all the vehicle traffic,” said Goldberg, whose group lobbies for increased public investment in infrastructure.

“And it’s very difficult to orchestrate maintenance because those bridges are so busy.”

Funding is also a problem — the state of California faces a $7.6 billion backlog to repair all of its deficient bridges.

“What you’re seeing here is the result of a generation of underinvestment into our local roads and bridges,” said John Goodwin, spokesman for Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the region’s lead transportation agency.

He did add that the region’s two most troublesome structures — the eastern span of the Bay Bridge and Doyle Drive in San Francisco — are in the midst of being completely overhauled.

Most of the creaky spans in San Francisco are ramps and overpasses located along the Highway 101 and Interstate 280 corridors, segments of The City’s infrastructure maintained by Caltrans, the state’s transportation agency.

The City’s Department of Public Works is also responsible for maintaining local bridges, such as structures on Hyde and Harrison streets, both of which reported deficient spans.

Of five DPW structures deemed deficient on the report, two have been fixed and two more are set to undergo construction soon, said agency spokeswoman Mindy Linetzky.

While San Francisco was the worst-performing county in California, its regional peers did not fare much better. Five of the 10 worst counties were located in the Bay Area.

Infrastructure investigation

116 Total bridges in San Francisco

40 Bridges in San Francisco that were deemed deficient

34.5% San Francisco rate of deficient bridges

11.5% National rate of deficient bridges

At 34.5 percent, San Francisco County has the highest rate of deficient bridges in California. A look at the top five:  

1. San Francisco 34.5
2. Madera 32.3
3. Yuba 27.6
4. Lake 21.7
5. Alameda 21.5

Source: Transportation For America

S.F.’s worst

The scores, from 0-9, assigned to some of The City’s worst-rated bridges:   

Year Built Daily Cars
Evans Avenue 1 5 7 1947 25,000
23rd Street 3 1 5 1906 5,000
Lefty O’Doul Bridge 6 3 3 1932 25,000
Harrison Street 1 7 7 1936 15,000

Source: Transportation For America

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Will Reisman

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