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Bay Area Small Bridges At Risk Of Collapse

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(CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Transportation advocates have issued an urgent call for federal funding to shore up what they describe as crumbling infrastructure in the Bay Area – specifically, the hundreds of small bridges that span creeks, sloughs and highways all over the region.

Transportation for America, a national coalition, analyzed data from a Federal Highway Administration study of the Bay Area’s 3,500 bridges, determining that, overall, 20% of them are structurally deficient, with some even at risk of collapse. That figure jumped to nearly 35% when the analysis was limited to San Francisco’s bridges.

By comparison, nationally, roughly 11% of America’s bridges were deemed structurally deficient, based on Federal Highway Administration research.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

“This is a bit of a wake-up call,” declared Stuart Cohen, executive director of Transform, a Bay Area transit advocacy group that works in conjunction with Transportation for America. “If we’re all going to be safe we need to put more money into maintaining what we have and less money expanding.”

Understandably, many Bay Area motorists and pedestrians think about the more high-profile and iconic spans – like the Golden Gate and Bay bridges – when the topic of structural safety comes up. But, Cohen stressed that the region is actually saturated with a network of smaller spans – certainly not legendary landmarks, but responsible for bearing the weight of precious cargo over highways and waterways nonetheless.

“Most of these bridges are designed to last about 50 years and the average age of California’s bridges is now 44 years,” Cohen said of these smaller bridges. “So, a lot like our bodies as we grow older, if we don’t do significant maintenance now the costs and the dangers that we’re facing are going to really grow.”

It’s no secret that the coffers of cash-strapped communities and the State of California are running low – if not totally empty – prompting Cohen to call on the federal government to step in and open its wallet.

“The truth is that our local governments and our state government do not have enough money to maintain all of this,” he summed up the financially bleak picture. “We believe that there should be a strong federal role in making sure that we are safe.”

Transform planned to release its report, “The Fix We’re In For: The State Of California Bridges” at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday. The report was expected to include more detailed information, including the names and locations, of the Bay Area’s structurally deficient bridges and spans.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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