Busiest and Most Deficient Spans Need Attention

Not every bridge in SoCal is as elaborate or expansive as the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project or the Sixth Street Bridge. Perhaps that’s why the average SoCal commuter may not think twice when driving over the 14,000 bridges in Los Angeles County. But these bridges play a critical role in our lives by connecting our communities. If, for example, the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, Elysian Park 110 Freeway Bridge, or the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro were suddenly inaccessible, the way of life for commuters, industry, and the economy would be greatly impacted.

Fixes desperately needed

American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA)’s 2017 report about deficient bridges puts Southern California on the top of the list. Six of the worst seven bridges are along Interstate 110. Some of the most heavily traveled bridges on the I-110, 101, 55, 22, 60 freeways also need fixes.

Bridges in Orange and Los Angeles County dominated ARTBA’s report, but in looking only at L.A. County’s approximately 1400 bridges, 66% of these bridges are older than 50 years and have exceeded their designed service life. Of these bridges older than 50 years, 6% are rated as being in poor condition.

California’s bridges rate a C- on the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure report card. This is slightly lower than the C grade that bridges receive nationally. The Federal Highway Administration estimates the backlog of repairs for existing bridges is $125 billion. To improve conditions, it is necessary to increase spending on bridge rehabilitation by 58%: from $14.4 billion to $22.7 billion annually. Without this change, at the current rate of investment, it will take until 2071 to make all the repairs that are necessary.  

Investing in bridge infrastructure

President Biden’s American Jobs Plan would invest $115 billion in infrastructure to help fix the most economically significant large bridges in the country and repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges. These funds would ensure that bridges throughout Los Angeles County are updated and made safe. Current opposition wishes to cap overall infrastructure investments between $600 – 800 billion

In addition to other infrastructure issues that need attention, including water, roads, and public transportation, many bridges in SoCal are performing beyond their design life. As Hasan Ikhrata, at the time the executive director for the Southern California Association of Governments, said after the 2017 ARTBA report was released, “That doesn’t mean they are going to fall apart tomorrow,” but he stressed that it means the bridges could be more vulnerable in floods “or, God forbid, an earthquake.”

The unfortunate reality is that tragedy can occur when we least expect it and it’s important to learn from past crises that could have been preventable. For example, the Minneapolis I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River had been classified as structurally deficient. Thirteen people were killed and 145 more were injured, many of them seriously, when it collapsed in 2007. The flood damaged Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway (CRANDIC) bridge cost $7 million to repair in 2008. And here in SoCal, flooding touched off by unusually intense rainfall washed out an I-10 bridge in July 2015.

At The Rebuild SoCal Partnership, we’ve become frustrated. Perhaps you are, too? We don’t want disaster to strike before action is taken. There is a lot of infrastructure work out there that needs to be done and yet politics continue to get in the way. This is why we are making efforts to do something about our failing infrastructure, and we need your help. Learn more about how you can get involved and lend your voice. Share your concerns with others and contact your legislators. 

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Additionally, if you’d like to learn more about the bridges in Los Angeles County, KCET provides an insightful brief history.