Richmond-San Rafael Bridge reopens after falling concrete closed 2 lanes

Officials reopened two eastbound lanes of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on Friday afternoon after closing it for several hours when concrete fell from the upper deck, the second such incident in two months.

Reports of spattering debris came in shortly before 1 p.m., at a location between the two towers that overlook the undulating roadway. Engineers said it happened near the ongoing maintenance project to replace 61 joints, the steel bars that connect sections of the bridge and allow it to move when the temperature changes.

The closures snared traffic on the San Rafael side of the bridge as rush hour approached.

The span has suffered potholes and gashes for years. On Feb. 8 it was shut down for nine hours after football-sized chunks of concrete broke from an aging expansion joint and pelted a Mercedes. That spillage left a six-foot cavity beneath the road, shutting the span for nine hours and prompting Caltrans to start the $10 million joint repair.

“Probably what happened is the normal expanding and loosening of concrete, which was exacerbated by the repair work,” said John Goodwin, a spokesman for the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which administers toll revenues from the region’s seven state-owned bridges.

Goodwin said that Friday’s breach appeared small, though any amount of material falling from a bridge “is bad.” He said the bridge is traveled heavily, with traffic increasing and freight loads swelling throughout the day. That stress, combined with rain and briny salt air, may be causing the concrete to expand and chip apart.

California Highway Patrol officers closed the bridge’s eastbound middle and far right lanes, the latter of which is usually open for rush hour between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Caltrans crews were on the scene doing emergency repair work as traffic started building toward the East Bay.

Officials reopened the lanes just before 4 p.m.

Rachel Swan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email:

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