Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Has Been Problematic Since 2015

Records show the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge has been problematic for years. On Thursday, concrete debris fell from the upper deck of the bridge, prompting an hours-long closure and sparking a traffic nightmare throughout the region.

The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge's history is part of an NBC Bay Area investigation spanning more than six years into the safety and condition of California's bridges.

NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit first reported the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was problematic back in 2015, when NBC Bay Area found it on the list of bridges that engineers have issues with it was not formally listed as a bridge with structural deficiencies. But the rating system showed it was close.

Since then, Caltrans has been working to rehabilitate the bridge by working on the steel structure for the last two years or so.

According to the National Bridge Inventory, the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was originally built in 1956. It carries an average of 67,000 vehicles a day, and is expected to carry 116,000 a day by the year 2033.

During its last inspection less than two years ago, engineers rated its superstructure and as a "5," meaning it would have been officially declared structurally deficient. And it had an overall rating by engineers of 60.9, which is pretty low. The bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis in 2007 was rated 50.

As NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit has been reporting for years, maintaining and keeping infrastructure-like bridges has become a serious issue across the country.

On Thursday, there was a hearing in Congress on the very issue. Experts tell NBC Bay Area that to fix all the problematic bridges in the United States could cost between $2 and $3 trillion.

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