The Antioch Bridge, also known as the Senator John A. Nejedly Bridge, opened on Dec. 1, 1978 (two years ahead of schedule!) The bridge spans the San Joaquin River between Sherman Island in Sacramento County and Antioch in Contra Costa County. The bridge features a steel plate girder arch design, which is composed of 2 steel plate girders spanning the piers below, supporting a lightweight concrete slab above. The girders also have a protective coating, which dramatically reduces the need for maintenance or painting. At 1.8 miles long, 460 feet tall and 2 lanes (38.1 feet) wide, this bridge handles roughly 13,600 cars per day, while the 135-foot clearance below allows for several ships and smaller vessels a day to navigate underneath without interrupting the flow of traffic. Caltrans and the Bay Area Toll Authority own and maintain the bridge, which is also a part of the Bay Area FasTrak system and a $5 toll.
The current bridge was built to replace the old lift bridge which opened on Jan. 1, 1926. The original Antioch Bridge was built by the American Toll Bridge Company (founded in 1923 by Aven Hanford and Oscar Klatt), which went on to build the original span of the Carquinez Bridge, to replace the toll ferry operating at the time. The project cost over $2,000,000 (equivalent to $28,110,000 in 2016) to complete. The original bridge was also the first toll bridge in the Bay Area. The toll to cross was 45 cents (equivalent to $7.69 in 2016) + 5 cents (85 cents in 2016) per passenger at its opening. The bridge featured two 270 foot spans, was 21 feet wide and had a 70-foot clearance for ships when opened. Eventually, the state of California acquired ownership of the Antioch and Carquinez bridges for $5,943,000 (equal to $101,600,000 in 2016) on Sept. 16, 1940.
The original bridge was replaced in 1978 because it was a lift bridge causing traffic to be stopped and the bridge lifted an average of 95 times a month to allow marine traffic to pass. Another reason was heavy traffic could only cross at 15 mph. The main reason was the narrow ship channel. The narrow channel caused marine traffic to collide with the bridge, shutting it down for major repair each time. The first time was in 1958 by the Kaimana; then in 1963 by the Pasadena; and finally in 1970 by the Washington Bear. The 1970 collision sparked efforts to build a new bridge. Due to the collision, the bridge tender was stuck in the control house (in the raised position) for 20 hours. He was eventually rescued by firemen, and the bridge was closed for 5 months for repairs.
- In 1965, three circus lions escaped from a truck while crossing the Antioch Bridge. Two were quickly captured, while the third drowned after falling into the river.
- Humphrey the Whale was stranded near the Antioch Bridge in 1985.