Take Two for June 21, 2013

How safe are California's bridges?

Bridge Inspection - 1

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.

Bridge Inspection - 2

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Caltrans' Bing Wu first checks the top of the bridge, including the railing and the road.

Bridge Inspection - 3

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Jim Drago, Caltrans chief of bridge maintenance in Sacramento, joins Bing Wu as a safety second on Tuesday.

Bridge Inspection - 4

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

"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.

Bridge Inspection - 5

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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."

Bridge Inspection - 6

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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.

Bridge Inspection - 7

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Drago and Wu write down which issues came to their attention, and measurements of cracks or other problems.

Bridge Inspection - 8

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Wu spray paints circles around small chips in the concrete railing on the Manhattan Beach bridge, to mark them for future repairs.

Bridge Inspection - 11

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

"We look like a doctor looking at a patient," says Bing Wu.

Bridge Inspection - 12

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Bing Wu documents his observations while inspecting a Manhattan Beach overpass. Inspectors also take pictures to go along with their reports.

Bridge Inspection - 13

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Jim Drago and Bing Wu inspect the bottom of the concrete structure. The bridge was widened in 1972.


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.


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