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How safe are California's bridges?




Caltrans Senior Bridge Engineer Bing Wu inspects the underbelly of a bridge that's part of Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach.
Caltrans Senior Bridge Engineer Bing Wu inspects the underbelly of a bridge that's part of Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Caltrans Senior Bridge Engineer Bing Wu inspects the underbelly of a bridge that's part of Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach.
Caltrans' Bing Wu first checks the top of the bridge, including the railing and the road.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Caltrans Senior Bridge Engineer Bing Wu inspects the underbelly of a bridge that's part of Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach.
Jim Drago, Caltrans chief of bridge maintenance in Sacramento, joins Bing Wu as a safety second on Tuesday.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Caltrans Senior Bridge Engineer Bing Wu inspects the underbelly of a bridge that's part of Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach.
"It's older than I am," says Bing Wu of the bridge, which was built in 1930. The overpass is a typical concrete structure with metal beams.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Caltrans Senior Bridge Engineer Bing Wu inspects the underbelly of a bridge that's part of Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach.
Jim Drago and Bing Wu prepare to crawl underneath the concrete bridge overpass to inspect the structure. "This bridge will be here a long time," said Drago. "Longer that I will."
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Caltrans Senior Bridge Engineer Bing Wu inspects the underbelly of a bridge that's part of Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach.
Each bridge in Southern California has an identification number associated with it. Before an inspection, Wu prints out the history of the bridge's previous inspections.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Caltrans Senior Bridge Engineer Bing Wu inspects the underbelly of a bridge that's part of Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach.
Drago and Wu write down which issues came to their attention, and measurements of cracks or other problems.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Caltrans Senior Bridge Engineer Bing Wu inspects the underbelly of a bridge that's part of Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach.
Wu spray paints circles around small chips in the concrete railing on the Manhattan Beach bridge, to mark them for future repairs.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Caltrans Senior Bridge Engineer Bing Wu inspects the underbelly of a bridge that's part of Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach.
"We look like a doctor looking at a patient," says Bing Wu.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Caltrans Senior Bridge Engineer Bing Wu inspects the underbelly of a bridge that's part of Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach.
Bing Wu documents his observations while inspecting a Manhattan Beach overpass. Inspectors also take pictures to go along with their reports.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Caltrans Senior Bridge Engineer Bing Wu inspects the underbelly of a bridge that's part of Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach.
Jim Drago and Bing Wu inspect the bottom of the concrete structure. The bridge was widened in 1972.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC


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When a bridge fell in Washington last month it rekindled questions about the state of our nation's infrastructure.

That span over the Skagit river had been rated both "functionally obsolete" and "fracture critical" prior to collapse. Right now in California there are more than 600 bridges labeled either functionally obsolete, fracture critical or "structurally deficient," but experts say the labels are misleading.  

Sanden Totten reports. 

RELATED: Click here for an interactive map of Southern California bridges and their various ratings.