Crossing the Carquinez Strait along Interstate 680 (I-680), the Benicia-Martinez Bridge connects the cities of Benicia and Martinez. On the south side of the bridge, drivers pay tolls in the northbound direction at the toll place.

Workers began the big cantilever project back in 1928 and it was completed in 1930. Workers built this long, 5,620-foot railway bridge as part of the Southern Pacific Railroad (established in 1865), using a variety of structural span types — such as trussing, cantilevering, and metal rivets. The bridge not only helped create much-needed job opportunities in the wake of the Great Depression but also connected the two counties without the need for a train-ferry system.

Benicia had a train ferry called Solano, stationed at the bottom of First Street (the yellow building that is now See’s Candy) before there was a railroad bridge. Solano would take train cars between Benicia and Port Costa (in service from 1879 to 1930); however, the construction of the rail bridge made it much more convenient, as trains no longer had to wait to get onto the ferry and undergo the entire time-consuming and costly process of separating the train cars.

The Union Pacific Railroad now owns the Benicia-Martinez Railroad Bridge following a merger with the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1996. Its railroad remains the only train bridge in California to have tracks crossing the bay. It is also the continent’s second-longest railway and holds the record for the longest rail bridge west of the Mississippi River.

Today the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge is frequented by long freight trains and Amtrak trains (passenger trains include the Capitol Corridor short-haul trains and California Zephyr and Coast Starlight long-distance trains). While Amtrak doesn’t stop in Benicia — something I’ve always wondered about — it passes through, and when crossing the bridge this way, folks can get an amazing view of the Strait. For this experience alone, taking a ride on Amtrak is really worth it. Locals can hop on Amtrak at one of its nearby stations, in Martinez or Suisun for example.

Most know that the train bridge is a part of I-680 in the middle of two vehicle bridges. The original vehicle bridge (now the southbound I-680 bridge) was built in 1962, previously called the George Miller Jr. Bridge, and it was not until years later that the new bridge opened in 2007 (the northbound I-680 bridge, previously named Congressman George Miller Benicia – Martinez Bridge).

In August 2007 Kiewit completed the Benicia-Martinez Bridge. The five-lane, 8,790-foot toll bridge carries vehicles northbound across the Carquinez Strait and connects the City of Benicia in Solano County with the City of Martinez in Contra Costa County. The bridge runs parallel to the existing six-lane bridge between Benicia-Martinez and Union Pacific Railroad Bridge.

The bridge topped the Top 10 Bridges list of Roads & Bridges released in November 2006, and is one of the longest span bridges of its kind in the United States.

This amazing attraction is located near the following must-see sights in Concord, California:

  • Diablo Foothills Regional Park
  • Shell Ridge Open Space 
  • Todos Santos Plaza
  • California Grand Casino 
  • Shadelands Ranch Museum
  • Shiva Murugan Temple
  • Newhall Community Park

All of these landmarks are located just a short distance from our location in downtown Walnut Creek, Spaulding Concrete on Locust Street!