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Professional Paper 1552-B

Prepared in cooperation with the National Science Foundation

The Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake of October 17, 1989—Highway Systems

By Mark Yashinsky


low-angle photo of collapsed section of the Oakland Bay Bridge.  Photo by John Nakata taken from a plane piloted by Bill Updegrove

This paper summarizes the impact of the Loma Prieta earthquake on highway systems. City streets, urban freeways, county roads, state routes, and the national highway system were all affected. There was damage to bridges, roads, tunnels, and other highway structures. The most serious damage occurred in the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, 60 miles from the fault rupture. The cost to repair and replace highways damaged by this earthquake was $2 billion. About half of this cost was to replace the Cypress Viaduct, a long, elevated double-deck expressway that had a devastating collapse which resulted in 42 deaths and 108 injuries. The earthquake also resulted in some positive changes for highway systems. Research on bridges and earthquakes began to be funded at a much higher level. Retrofit programs were started to upgrade the seismic performance of the nation's highways. The Loma Prieta earthquake changed earthquake policy and engineering practice for highway departments not only in California, but all over the world.

Download the text of this publication as a 195-page PDF file (pp1552b.pdf; 19.2 MB)

For questions about the content of this report, contact Tom Holzer

This publication is part of the set of four multi-chapter USGS Professional Papers on the Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake of October 17, 1989:

Professional Paper 1550, Earthquake Occurrence, Coordinators: William H. Bakun and William H. Prescott

Professional Paper 1551, Strong Ground Motion and Ground Failure, Coordinator: Thomas L. Holzer

Professional Paper 1552, Performance of the Built Environment, Coordinator, Thomas L. Holzer

Professional Paper 1553, Societal Response, Coordinator: Dennis S. Mileti

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Maintained by: Michael Diggles
Created: July 15, 2006
Last modified: July 15, 2006 (mfd)