Bridge woes compound California infrastructure troubles


Dams aren’t the only part of California infrastructure on the hot seat. Following a big-ticket Sacramento request for federal building funds, a new report has concluded that the number of state bridges in dangerously inadequate condition reaches into the thousands. 

“Of the 55,000 bridges across the U.S. that were deemed structurally deficient in a report published by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, more than 1,300 California bridges fall under that category,” KCRA and the Associated Press reported. “That means that of the 25,431 bridges in the state, 5 percent have one or more key bridge elements – deck, superstructure or substructure – that are considered to be in ‘poor’ or worse condition, the analysis found.”

Although the bridges haven’t been labeled near collapse, the numbers threw the sheer scale of California’s infrastructure woes – amid heavy costs on marquee projects like high-speed rail – into stark relief. “The state has already identified 4,075 bridges that need repair, which comes with a price tag of $12 billion,” the channel continued. “Across the country, ARBTA noted that deficient bridges are crossed about 185 million times a day. The top 14 most-traveled deficient bridges are in California.”

Hat in hand

A near-catastrophe surrounding the potential failure of the state’s Oroville Dam has thrown additional light onto what California gets for its spending and doesn’t. “Shock over the emergency evacuation downriver from the Oroville Dam has given way to serious questions about how California is coping with its aging infrastructure – which the American Society of Civil Engineers says would cost the state a staggering $65 billion per year to fix and maintain after years of neglect,” the San Jose Mercury News observed.

Residents and officials are divided over where that kind of money should come from. “Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed investing $43 billion in infrastructure over the next five years, with the vast majority of the money going to transportation,” the paper added. “California voters approved a $7.5 billion water bond in 2014 for a range of needs from flood control to water storage, but that falls far short of needs for flood control and increasing the water supply.”

Wishes and hopes

In fact, the state has drafted up a bid for $100 billion of federal infrastructure funding on over 50 projects, itemized in a letter from Gov. Brown to the National Governors Association. “Brown’s administration has pledged $4.3 billion of the state’s budget to go toward the repairs on the list, and has given legislative leaders a deadline of April 6 to submit candidates for any transportation funding,” the San Francisco Business Times reported. “Other projects on the state’s list for federal funds include levees, reservoirs, bridges, ports, recycling centers, public transit upgrades and more veterans services operations.”

Oroville Dam wasn’t mentioned on the list; California’s stop-and-start high speed rail project, projected to run well over the budget authorized by voters, was. “The state said Saturday that repairs to the primary spillway at Oroville Dam — the nation’s tallest earthen dam — could run as much as $200 million but that was before critical damage to the emergency spillway,” CNBC noted. “Repairs to both spillways are likely to run much higher than the rough estimate provided by the California Department of Water Resources.”

Although California’s once-cozy relationship with the White House, forged between leading state Democrats and Barack Obama’s administration, may be history, officials have made reassurances that their focus on infrastructure — a priority shared with president Trump — will not be in vain. “State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly told reporters he plans to meet soon with new federal Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to discuss the wish list,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, won confirmation to the position as one of the most experienced and established members of Trump’s cabinet. 


Write a comment
  1. marguerite
    marguerite 26 February, 2017, 11:25

    I believe the hi speed rail is important, perhaps we need to repair the neglected bridges first.

    Reply this comment
  2. JLee
    JLee 26 February, 2017, 11:50

    Why shoukd federal govt pay. States shoukd
    Repair their own infrastructures

    Reply this comment
    • Tahoedirt
      Tahoedirt 3 March, 2017, 02:48

      I can easily answer that- Because the residents of California pay much more into federal coiffures than any other state. It’s not even close. We are the 6th largest economy in the world and this country would really fall apart without Calf proceeds.

      Reply this comment
  3. JPR11
    JPR11 26 February, 2017, 16:42

    Also, let’s not forget the $1 trillion Obama spent on infrastructure that was total waste. Not only was it Failure but was debt financed. Sac has failed to put any priority on infrastructure but seems to have now awakened, which just means another tax increase. What a stupid joke government can be!

    Reply this comment
  4. Phil Hood
    Phil Hood 26 February, 2017, 23:13

    If you take a long look over the past fifty years what you find is that over time we have shifted investment from transportation, education and the like to health care and pensions. These budget items, no matter how important, are gradually squeezing out the spending that are investments in our economic future. I don’t have the answer, but I think I’ve identified the problem.

    Reply this comment
  5. Queeg
    Queeg 26 February, 2017, 23:36


    Screams by the usual tax/spenders for roads and dams and bridges when “it’s all for the pensions”.

    You will witness the biggest political bait and switch in your lifetime!

    Your wallets please-

    Reply this comment
  6. michael
    michael 27 February, 2017, 08:17


    You forgot it is “for the children”

    Reply this comment
    • Queeg
      Queeg 27 February, 2017, 09:31

      Comrade Mikie

      Queeg never forgets the frantic appeals of chubby Plutocrats working us toward a Detroit existence. Look at formerly beautiful Orange County now having 1/3 of population in need, poverty. Crap apartments, miserable schools, overcrowding, roads crumbling and congested with aging vehicles similar to Crockadillos….

      Reply this comment
  7. fyerrick
    fyerrick 27 February, 2017, 08:46

    Our Founding Fathers gave us a Constitutional Republic with the requirement to maintain her. It takes ” Enlightened Citizens” to maintain our Republic. We have long forgotten that it is “We the People” who created our Federal government. It is time to Self-educate, then Stand up, Speak up, and Show up for Federalism. Please join us at We thank you.

    Reply this comment
  8. Dork
    Dork 27 February, 2017, 09:44

    Californians pass $7.5 billion water bond: Now what?

    Thank God we don’t have to worry about any of the Dams. ???

    Thats right THERE IS NO MONEY?

    Reply this comment
  9. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 27 February, 2017, 13:13

    Stop squanering money or super trains and dumb delta smelts and lets get those bridges fix before something terrible happens

    Reply this comment
  10. ragin' steve
    ragin' steve 30 March, 2017, 08:23

    Re infrastructure payment proposal (Gerry Brown). Why put this on the general public? The main beneficiary of good infrastructure is business. Business requires a way to move its goods, get employees to the workplace and get goods and equipment to the workplace. Infrastructure is also there for policing and the initial reason for the interstates was for military movement. Although we all benefit from good infrastructure the people that make profits from it should be the ones to shoulder the largest percentage of the cost. Not further decreasing disposable income from the general public, or maybe you think of them as peasants.

    Reply this comment
  11. myhome
    myhome 13 February, 2023, 15:43

    I agree with your point of view, your article has given me a lot of help and benefited me a lot. Thanks. Hope you continue to write such excellent articles.

    Reply this comment

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