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Bay Area lawmaker demands new Richmond-San Rafael bridge

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Span crumbles for second time this year

A ship approaching the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. Photo by Basil D Soufi

On April Fools’ Day, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt pranked constituents with a phony announcement claiming that the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge would soon close and would perhaps need to be replaced.

Days later, California Assemblymember Marc Levine of San Rafael demanded that Butt’s gag come true, after the span needed emergency repairs for the second time in 2019.

According to SFMTA (who were warning commuters about potential gridlock leaving the city), chunks of concrete fell from the bridge’s upper deck and obstructed eastbound lanes Friday afternoon.

While Caltrans had the lane open again by 4 p.m., the incident comes less than two months after the same thing happened on February 7, briefly shutting down almost all traffic on the bridge during rush hour.

Caltrans says that the latest incident was the product of ongoing bridge repairs in response to the February fallout, as replacement work on bridge components accidentally chipped the concrete.

In response to the constant crumbling, Levine declared on Twitter, “It’s time to plan now for a new span of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. I am calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Caltrans to prepare concepts for the new span this year.”

Levine added, “Enough with the Band-Aids—let’s have a bridge that will last for generations,” repeating comments he previously made to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The 5.5-mile Richmond-San Rafael bridge first opened in September 1956. It cost $66 million—the equivalent of over $613 million today.

According to NBC Bay Area, “During [the bridge’s] last inspection less than two years ago, engineers rated its superstructure and as a five, meaning it would have been officially declared structurally deficient.”

In bridge safety terms, “structurally deficient” is a broad category that means “a bridge has physical flaws of some kind,” but that deficiency could range from non-troublesome to potentially critical.