RICHMOND (KPIX 5) — A lot of time and money goes into maintaining the Bay Area’s bridges and now the public is being asked for their ideas in replacing the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Built in 1956, the 4.5 mile long bridge has been a workhorse, connecting people from the East and North Bay areas. But Randy Rentschler, spokesman for the Bay Area Toll Authority, says even at its opening, it seemed to be lacking.

“It was a bridge people probably wished they built bigger and stronger,” he said, “They probably wished they had more lanes on it, you know…right away they probably thought that.”

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It survived Loma Prieta, has been seismically retrofitted and is considered to be safe. But after chunks of concrete recently fell onto the lower deck, North Bay Assemblyman Marc Levine has now thrown down the gauntlet.

“We must repair, rethink and ultimately rebuild the Richmond Bridge,” he says on a video posted on his website.

Levine is asking the public to submit ideas of what they would like a new bridge to look like. It already has a new, experimental lane for bikes and pedestrians, although so far, the use of the lane seems pretty sparse.

Others have suggested an express lane for buses and even a rail line to take commuters into Richmond. Kim Robinson, a member of the nearby Marin Rod and Gun Club, says she’d like to see more lights on the bridge but doesn’t think it has to be a work of art.

“I think as long as it’s safe and people are comfortable, you know, knowing that they can go over the bridge without any things falling down on them and whatnot, that’s all we need!” she said.

Back at the Toll Authority, Rentschler says there are no plans right now to replace the bridge but as it ages, eventually, maintaining it will simply become too expensive.

“At some point into the future, infrastructure wears out,” he said, “and having a talk about what it could look like in that corridor is a good thing to do.”

Assemblyman Levine says he would like to tap into the creativity of the public and so far, 100 people have submitted suggestions to the website.

If you have any ideas about what a new Richmond Bridge should look like, you can submit them at Richmond Bridge – Repair Rethink Rebuild.

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