Beyond Claycord – Caltrans Finds Problems with Seismic Joints on Carquinez Bridge

June 6, 2014 16:00 pm · 22 comments

Caltrans inspectors last month found a damaged seismic expansion joint showing signs of premature wear on the westbound side of the Carquinez Bridge, agency officials said today.

During an inspection of the suspension bridge on May 15, inspectors saw that that one of its expansion joints was cracked and misaligned and that one of the 90 pivot pins holding it in place had slipped loose from its bearing, according to Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus.

When the pivot pin came loose, it damaged other components of the seismic joint in the process, including a neoprene stirrup bearing and two plate bearings, Haus said.

The spokesman said inspectors first noticed that the joint was “slightly misaligned” during an inspection in September 2012, but thought the misalignment might be repaired as part of a longer-term bridge upgrade.

But after seeing the damage to the joint in May, Caltrans crews made temporary repairs to shore it up and ensure it is fully operational, Haus said.

“There’s no danger to the traveling public at all,” he said. Haus said Caltrans is working on plans to repair the joint and adjoining components damaged by the loosened pivot pin. He said he did not have an estimate for the repair project but said it would likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The seismic joint affected is one of two expansion joints on the westbound span of the Carquinez Bridge, also known as the Al Zampa Memorial Bridge, which opened in 2003 after a $500 million construction project and connects Vallejo to Crockett.

The accordion-like component is designed to absorb movement and includes pivot pins meant to give the bridge the flexibility it needs to stay intact both during everyday traffic and in the event of an earthquake.

The damaged joint is located along a slow lane of traffic — the part of the bridge that is most heavily traveled by large trucks.

“All signs point to this area being affected by truck traffic and we know that trucks place greater stress on transportation infrastructure,” said John Goodwin of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which discussed the seismic joint problem at a meeting on Wednesday.

When the Carquinez Bridge’s new span was built over a decade ago, its joint system was projected to last for about 20 years before needing to be replaced, Goodwin said.

“Now we’re at 11.5 years after opening,” he said.

The expansion joint was manufactured in Germany and supplied by the D.S. Brown Company, as were the seismic joints used on the skyway portion of the Bay Bridge’s new eastern span and on the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, according to Caltrans.

Goodwin said that while the seismic joints on the three bridges come from the same manufacturer and supplier, they have different components and “are not identical.”

Caltrans inspectors have not found any issues with the seismic joints on either the Benicia-Martinez Bridge or the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, according to Haus.

KAD June 6, 2014 at 4:21 PM

This is so disappointing. 500 million and was supposed to last 20 years. Did they not inspect until this May when they knew there was a problem in Sept of 2012? This is a disgrace. They will never convince me that it is safe.

Marianne June 6, 2014 at 4:25 PM

Now this is scary! I take that bridge to work every day!

typical concord resident June 6, 2014 at 4:53 PM

The biggest problem with this is all the Claycordians who keep threatening to leave are now terrified of the bridge that leads to a happier life in the trailer park in Alabama, where they belong.

Reality Slap June 6, 2014 at 5:16 PM

The problem to the answer: CalTrans.

mutts June 6, 2014 at 5:23 PM

That’s a stupid comment, typical. We all have a right to safe bridges since we pay for them.

KAD June 6, 2014 at 5:26 PM

@typical concord resident. Apparently you don’t know which direction Alabama is.

funny man June 6, 2014 at 5:32 PM

i drove over this bridge a month and think i found the problem!
i saw a tag dangling from the girders that said:

Julio June 6, 2014 at 5:32 PM

This is just another item on the list of many that shows how inept CalTrans really is. We need to try to do things in a different way. Cost effective, accurate, done on time etc. All things CalTrans has no clue about.

anonanonagain June 6, 2014 at 5:34 PM

Here we go!!!

Connie Dobbs June 6, 2014 at 5:46 PM

KAD, I think he means for travelers to go to Alabama (where they belong) via the North Pole, the least practical and most expensive route.

Meet our next Governor.

anon June 6, 2014 at 5:48 PM

@6 He did say he was typical.

@3 June 6, 2014 at 5:49 PM

Let me guess, you opted out of geography to take transgender studies?

typical concord resident June 6, 2014 at 6:27 PM

Actually, come November you fine people are going to be jumping off it anyway.

Atticus Thraxx June 6, 2014 at 6:40 PM

Hah! A little chin music from #12….nicely done.

@#13 June 6, 2014 at 7:14 PM

You mean in November when the same status quo Democrat politicians get elected again? Yeah, that’ll really shake everyone up.

Takin' care of business June 6, 2014 at 8:08 PM

An WHO is the Chairman of CA Senate Transportation and Housing Committee?

Just form another committee to look at this problem too.

(insert name here) June 6, 2014 at 8:51 PM

The joints on the north end of the bridge are indeed ‘seismic’. Thank you Cal Trans. Party on Garth…

Jose June 6, 2014 at 10:15 PM

Color me surprised! Were talking Caltrans. I think every structure they have been involved with is going to fail.

Jose June 6, 2014 at 10:18 PM

@#3 Your real bright, why would someone in Concord need to cross the bay bridge to get to your home state of Alabama?

Justin June 7, 2014 at 6:38 AM


“You’re”, not “your”

Aspersions on intellect with lack thereof. Typical.

Batman June 7, 2014 at 7:34 AM

——–> ZOINK !!!!! BAM!!!! OOF!!!! <———

Anon June 8, 2014 at 4:41 AM

Just call Mark I am sure he will form another bridge committee at the tax payers expense to issue us a bull crap report showing there is no problem.

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