Nearly 1,500 California bridges are 'structurally deficient'

With the Pittsburgh bridge collapse, KTVU sought to learn how California's almost 26,000 bridges are doing. 

California has 1,493 bridges classified as structurally deficient, according to the Federal Highway Administration, That means 5.8%, have at least one key element such as the deck, superstructure, or foundation, rated in poor or worse condition. 

The cost to put them in fair or good condition reaches approximately $12 billion.

The big push to repair, refurbish and rehabilitate the bridges began  2017 when the legislature and then- Governor Brown enacted SB-1, the largest transportation bill in state history. The other key players: public support for raising even more money at the ballot box. 

"The voters of California and the voters of the Bay Area, in particular, deserve a lot of credit," said John Goodwin of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

In the last four years. the number of troubled bridges has steadily decreased by 21%, taking 319 bridges off the deficient list. 

"Those are your tax dollars at work and we're all safer for it," said Goodwin. 

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This is a direct result of planning, commitment and execution on the part of Caltrans, as well as funding coming from state and federal highway funds, tolls and gas taxes. 

"There are multiple sources of funding to do the catch-up job that you described," he said.

And now, comes even more big funding from the Federal bi-partisan infrastructure law, signed into law by President Biden in November.  

"We're looking at $849 million for this fiscal year alone and $4.2 billion over five years," said Bart Ney, Caltrans spokesman.

Of the nation's top 250 most heavily traveled but structurally deficient bridges, 61 are in California. The Bay Area 37 has such bridges, all of Southern California has 18 and the Central Valley has 6.  

Of the nine Bay Area counties, only 5 have deficient bridges:

Alameda and Contra Costa with 11 bridges each, San Mateo with 7, Solano with 6 and Santa Clara with 2.

Deficient means needing work, but under constant inspection and nowhere near to 'close them down.' "If we thought there were any structural problems with a bridge, we would close it immediately and address that," said Mr. Ney.