NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Dozens of aging bridges across San Diego County have poor safety ratings

3 bridges consistently rated poorly over past decade
coronado bridge and boats
Posted at 5:08 PM, Mar 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-27 12:45:48-04
  • Following the catastrophic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, ABC 10News decided to analyze data of local bridges to see the possibility of a scenario like that playing out in America's Finest City.
  • Of the 1,600 bridges in San Diego County, 51 bridges were categorized as in "poor condition," per the National Bridge Inventory.
  • 10News wants to emphasize that the most iconic bridge in our area, the Coronado Bridge, is not one of them. Additionally, an engineering professor says just because a bridge is rated as poor doesn't mean that it's at risk of collapsing.

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A horrific scene unfolded in Baltimore Tuesday morning when a container ship lost power and rammed into a major bridge, causing it to collapse. Six construction workers are feared dead, but quick thinking helped save many lives in this disaster.

ABC 10News asked officials in our area if what happened in Baltimore could ever happen here in San Diego.

Our team reported live from the Coronado Bridge, one of more than 1,600 bridges in our area. If you've ever wondered why it's curved 90 degrees, the architect designed it that way to make it longer. The extra 2.1 miles of roadway allows for a gradual incline, elevating the bridge safely while still making it high enough for Navy ships to pass underneath.

Also very important to note is the stability of the ground underneath allowed for the bridge towers to be made out of concrete rather than steel. We asked the Port of San Diego the process of bringing ships into the area and how it avoids an incident like the one in Baltimore.

Coronado Bridge and beach
Numerous sail boats float nearby the Coronado Bridge's concrete towers.

The port tells us the Coronado Bridge is the only one in the Bay, and Navy vessels and some cargo ships do go under it if they're going to the National City Marine Terminal. Local pilots take over outside of the bay and bring the ships in and to a terminal, and then out again.

According to inspection records with the U.S. Department of Transportation, dozens of bridges across San Diego County are in poor condition. 10News wants to emphasize that the Coronado Bridge is not one of them.

A recent Scripps News investigation found more than 14,000 bridges nationwide were ranked in poor condition for at least a decade.

In San Diego County, 51 bridges were listed in poor condition, according to National Bridge Inventory data. There are 1,630 bridges in the county in total. The oldest bridge is 95 years old and is located on 17th street in San Diego.

Three bridges in the county stood out and consistently rated poorly over the past 10 years.

One of those bridges is located on El Cajon Boulevard in La Mesa and was built in 1962.

The bridge on Mission Bay Drive in San Diego also received a poor rating. It was built in 1950 and has an average of 55,000 drivers go over it every day.

GFX_Poor Bridges.jpg
This map shows the bridges federal inspectors listed in poor condition across San Diego County in 2023.

Last year, the nearby aging bridge on West Mission Bay Drive was replaced. It was one of the three that consistently scored poorly in the county.

Over $100 million went into fixing the landmark bridge that caught the eye of federal inspectors.

A poor safety rating doesn’t mean a bridge is at risk of collapse, said Kent Harries, a structural engineering professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Hear what Harries had to say during an interview with Scripps News last year:

Engineering professor offers perspective on bridges

Caltrans sent the following statement to 10News in response to our inquiries about local bridges:

“Caltrans prioritizes the safety of all Californians by ensuring our bridges meet rigorous and strict seismic and safety standards. California’s bridges are safe for travel, and Caltrans has installed fender systems on all major bridges, further protecting bridge piers from the unlikely and rare event of being struck by marine traffic. All state-owned bridges are regularly inspected to ensure strict structural safety and have been seismically retrofitted to the highest national standards.

Caltrans will review the incident in Maryland and address any findings that will help increase bridge safety in the future.”