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Carquinez Straits Bridge (1927)

Photos 

Carquinez bridge

The original bridge was opened in 1927. The Lincoln Highway was rerouted across this bridge upon opening. A replica was built in 1958. The 1927 bridge carried westbound Interstate 80 traffic until it was replaced.

Photo taken by C. J. Plummer, Lincoln Highway Association

BH Photo #113476

Map 

Street View 

The Historical Importance of the Carquinez Bridge 

Written by J.R. Manning

The Carquinez Straits Bridge was an important link that connected the Bay area to Sacramento and northern California. The waters around San Francisco presented a significant obstacle to transportation in the area, and the Carquinez Straits required either ferry service or long detours to avoid the area completely. A bridge across the straits was an absolute necessity to the economy of the area. It had been discussed in the late 19th Century, finally coming to fruition in the 1920's.

At the time the Carquinez Straits Bridge opened, it was longest bridge west of the Mississippi River. (It predated the San Francisco Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge by eleven years.) It was also the first bridge to be designed to resist seismic forces. The two main spans were 1100 feet in length, making it, at the time, the fourth longest cantilever bridge in the world. Construction began in 1923 and the bridge opened in 1927, replacing ferry service across the straits.

The original route of The Lincoln Highway avoided the ferry crossing by coming from Stockton through Altamont Pass, then through Hayward to Oakland. Ferry service then carried the highway across the San Francisco Bay until 1938. When the Lincoln Highway was rerouted to cross the Carquinez Straits Bridge, the route was shortened by thirty miles.

With the development of the Interstate Highway System, I-80 also needed to cross the Straits of Carquinez. It was an incredibly important crossing, as evidenced by the fact the bridge carried 10 Million vehicles in 1955, compared to the one million it carried the year it opened. Using the extant bridge was an obvious choice, but the 1927 bridge only carried two lanes of traffic. A parallel bridge was built, 200 feet upstream, that opened in 1958. The new cantilever truss bridge resembled the 1927 structure in many ways, but was wider to carry four lanes of eastbound traffic. The deck of the 1927 bridge was widened by eliminating the pedestrian walkways, allowing the bridge to carry three very tight lanes for westbound traffic.

By the turn of the 21st Century, the old bridges were inadequate to meet modern traffic standards. The 1927 bridge did not meet current seismic standards and the deck was too narrow to carry three lanes of Interstate level traffic. Rebuilding of the 1927 bridge was determined too impractical and expensive. Access to the truss members was difficult, at best, and the traffic load too heavy to rebuild the bridge while open to traffic. The traffic snarl that would be created by simply closing the bridge for rebuilding would be controversial as well as impractical. The Carquinez Bridges were carrying an average of over 105,000 vehicles per day, closing one of the spans was just out of the question.

The 1927 bridge and the westbound Crockett exit ramp are listed on the National Register of Historic places, requiring special effort to replace the historic, but sadly obsolete, structure. A 54 page report that documents the 1927 Carquinez Straits Bridge can be viewed on the HAER website.

The new bridge now carries eastbound traffic. The 1958 bridge, after retrofitting, now carries the westbound lanes of I-80. After the opening the new bridge, the 1927 Carquinez Straits Bridge was dismantled. Photos of the dismantling, taken by Nicolas Janberg, can be found on the Structurae website at http://en.structurae.de/structures/data/index.cfm?id=s000048....

Facts 

Overview
Lost cantilevered through truss bridge over Carquinez Straits on Lincoln Highway, later I-80 Westbound Lanes in Vallejo
Location
Vallejo, Contra Costa County, California, and Solano County, California
Status
Replaced by new bridge
History
Built 1927; replaced 2003; demolished 2006
Builders
- Aven Hanford
- David B. Steinman of New York, New York (Engineer)
- Holton D. Robinson of Massena, New York (Engineer)
- Oscar Klatt
- Robinson & Steinman of New York, New York (Engineering Firm)
Design
Cantilevered through truss
Dimensions
Length of largest span: 1,100.0 ft.
Total length: 3,465.0 ft. (0.7 mi.)
Deck width: 34.0 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 148.0 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+38.06194, -122.22564   (decimal degrees)
38°03'43" N, 122°13'32" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
10/567930/4212970 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Benicia
Inventory number
BH 36445 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • June 20, 2016: Updated by Nathan Holth: Added deck width dimension.
  • June 11, 2016: Updated by Christopher Finigan: Added categories "Riveted", "Pin-connected"
  • October 31, 2010: New photos from Craig Philpott
  • October 30, 2010: New photo from Craig Philpott
  • October 15, 2010: New photos from Craig Philpott
  • March 27, 2010: New photos from Jason Smith
  • March 8, 2010: Updated by Craig Philpott: Added Street view
  • February 19, 2010: Updated by Craig Philpott: Corrected GPS data
  • August 7, 2009: Updated by Craig Philpott: added design firm name for original bridge.
  • April 11, 2008: Essay added by J.R. Manning
  • April 6, 2008: Updated by J.R. Manning
  • March 30, 2008: Added by J.R. Manning

Related Bridges 

Sources 

Comments 

Carquinez Straits Bridge (1927)
Posted June 20, 2016, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

David Steinman was known for taking what had been done before and improving upon it, so it is unsuprising that his method was faster and worked better. That said, I am unsure of the dimensions of this bridge's suspended span, but the Quebec Bridge's 640 foot long x 88 feet wide (c.c. trusses) suspended span was probably larger/heavier, and lifting of that span would be an impressive feet even by today's engineering standards. An unusual system of steel links was used to lift the Quebec Bridge too, which I suspect engineers like David Steinman would have tried to find alternatives too.

Carquinez Straits Bridge (1927)
Posted June 18, 2016, by Joel Bader (joenonac [at] hotmail [dot] com)

The 1960 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica had two photos of the original Carquinez Straits Bridge (?) under construction. One showed the falsework used to support the end spans on one side of the strait; the other showed one of the central spans being raised into place using ropes and counterweights. If I'm not mistaken, David Steinman, one of the articles about bridges for the encyclopedia, noted that the span-raising took less than an hour. (By comparison, the raising of the central span of the Quebec Bridge in Canada took four days and was marred by an accident which took 13 construction workers.)

Carquinez Straits Bridge (1927)
Posted May 25, 2015, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Luana,

You should be proud. Building a bridge of that size is quite an accomplishment.

Many people on this site tend to have a negative impression of new bridges that replace old ones they like, I would suggest reading the prior comments from that perspective.

Regards,

Art S.

Carquinez Straits Bridge (1927)
Posted May 24, 2015, by luana morales (luanademorales [at] gmail [dot] com)

The new carquinez bridge is BEAUTIFUL,I am proud to have been one of the bridge builder,that worked on footings and tower (Crockett side),can't wait to show my grandchildren,what their grandma helped build, :)

Carquinez Straits Bridge (1927)
Posted September 14, 2011, by Craig Philpott (cphilpott [at] puc [dot] edu)

Yes, I agree. The last paragraph of the "historic significance" description piece has the traffic flow reversed.

Carquinez Straits Bridge (1927)
Posted September 13, 2011, by Fred (mongue [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Contrary to what the above description states, the new bridge carries Westbound traffic, and the 1958 bridge still carries Eastbound.

Carquinez Straits Bridge
Posted November 21, 2008, by Ian Anderson (macsignals [at] gmail [dot] com)

It's pretty bad when an interesting cantilever bridge is replaced, but it's worse when the replacement is an outright boring suspension bridge! Concrete towers and a slim steel box-girder deck make for a boring bridge. I never though suspension bridges could be boring until I saw close-ups of the new bridge on CALTrans website.