(Photos Courtesy Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District)

(Photos Courtesy Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District)

Mostly positive inspection for Golden Gate Bridge finds one major fault: the paint job

The Golden Gate Bridge is the San Francisco Bay Area’s shining icon, but a recent inspection highlighted a problem that can be seen with the naked eye:

The international orange paint job is a wreck.

A regular two-year inspection in April required by federal regulations found the towers of the famous bridge structurally sound, earning what one bridge official called the “highest” marks a water-spanning conveyance can earn.

Yet inspectors from Nebraska-based HDR inc. engineering determined 8.5 percent of the towers’ steel sports peeling paint, while 4.5 percent of the towers’ steel is rusted and corroded. That damage isn’t structural, but still is a priority for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District to fix.

Most of the bridge was found to be in “good,” condition, which bridge district General Manager Denis Mulligan noted is a top mark.

“Good is the highest you can get,” he told a committee of the bridge district board, Thursday morning. “I know ‘great’ is an inflation in academia, but it doesn’t exist in the engineering world.”

HRD inc. was awarded the $700,000 contract for a full bridge review and performed the death-defying tower inspections, which required its engineers to rappel from the side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Photos and video played by the bridge district during the Thursday committee meeting show inspectors clinging to the bridge’s south tower like Spider-Man, hanging by a web of cables as autos cross above them.

In one video, an inspector hung by cables by the bridge’s base, tapping the concrete foundation with a tool, searching for a dull sound to reveal improper concrete. The tool sounded, “Clink, clink, clink,” as he tapped it against the smooth gray surface. “I find this fascinating in the era of high tech and so on,” Ewa Bauer, chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge, told the committee Thursday. Though x-ray and other methods are available, they don’t work nearly as well, she said. “This is the best.”

Seven defects that may be classified as in “fair” condition were found on the bridge, she said, and “very small” non-structural elements were deemed in “poor” condition, she said.

“I’m not saying we don’t have to go and take care of it, but overall the structural evaluation of the tower gets good ratings,” Bauer said.

However, the paint is more of a problem.

It’s rusting, peeling, staining — and, it’s “ugly,” Bauer noted. Fixing it, however, will be an “expensive proposition,” she said.

That’s because the district may need to cloak the entire south tower in scaffolding and “containment enclosures” to catch errant paint. Still, only the south tower of the bridge may need that treatment, she said, since it bears the brunt of the wind and fog. The north tower, on the other hand, is mostly shielded from heavy weather elements by the Marin headlands.

Bauer said the most likely way forward is to fold the paint project in with forthcoming seismic retrofit work on the bridge, which is currently estimated to cost $660 million, according to a bridge district staff report. Still, the committee agreed that repainting the bridge was a necessity.

“People love this bridge,” said Golden Gate District board member Brian Sobl. “They want it to look good — pristine.”

(Photos Courtesy Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District)


Just Posted

Plan Bay Area 2050 is an expansive plan guiding the region’s growth and development over the next three decades. The regional plan addresses progressive policy priorities like a universal basic income and a region-wide rent cap, alongside massive new spending on affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. (Shutterstock)
$1.4 trillion ‘blueprint’ would address Bay Area’s housing, transit woes

Analyzing the big ticket proposals in ‘Plan Bay Area 2050’

A felled tree in San Francisco is pictured on Fillmore Street following a major storm that produced high winds and heavy rains on Oct. 24, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Philip Ford)
Storm updates: Sunday was wettest October day in San Francisco history

Torrential rainfall causes flooding, triggers evacuations in burn areas

On Sunday, California bore the brunt of what meteorologists referred to as a bomb cyclone and an atmospheric river, a convergence of storms that brought more than half a foot of rain to parts of the Bay Area, along with high winds, concerns about flash floods and the potential for heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada. Much of the Bay Area was under a flash flood watch on Sunday, with the National Weather Service warning of the potential for mudslides across the region. (NOAA via The New York Times)
Bomb cyclone, atmospheric river combine to pummel California with rain and wind

What you need to know about this historic weather event

While Kaiser Permanente patients seeking mental health care will get a 30-minute phone assessment within days, in many cases, they cannot get actual treatment for months. (Shutterstock)
City employees face months-long wait time for mental health care

‘We are in the midst of a mental health crisis’

Klay Thompson, left, and his boat dealer Kenyon Martin take on his test drive on the NBA star’s 37-foot vessel; injury woes sent Thompson, the Golden State guard, looking for solace. He found it on the water. (Courtesy Anthony Nuccio via New York Times)
Warriors star finds love with his fishing boat

Being on the water is a ‘safe space’ for Klay Thompson

Most Read