Insurance on Golden Gate Bridge expected to double

The Associated Press
Thursday April 04, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — Insurance costs for the Golden Gate Bridge will more than double as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks, and the new policy will not include any coverage in case of future terrorism. 

“It was obvious that a number of insurers were withdrawing from the market,” said Chris Ewers, the bridge’s insurance broker. “We told the bridge district that this was going to be a problem.” 

Ewers was preparing to negotiate with carriers over a new policy in November, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday. Gov. Gray Davis said he was tightening security statewide because of a credible threat to one of four suspension bridges, including the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Davis revealed last month a second threat to the Golden Gate Bridge surfaced a few days after the first, but it was not widely publicized because it did not seem as credible. 

“My underwriters typically pick up on these kinds of things,” Ewers said. “It didn’t help the negotiations.” 

He approached nearly two dozen insurance companies about taking on the bridge’s policy, which expires Monday. Many were interested, but only if acts of terrorism were specifically exempt from coverage. 

The bridge’s board of directors voted last month to stick with its present insurer, ACE USA, but to bow to the carrier’s demands for substantially higher fees and drastically reduced coverage. 

The bridge district now pays about $500,000 per year for $125 million in coverage, including terrorist attacks. 

As of next week, the bridge district will pay twice as much in premiums, $1.1 million, for a fraction of the coverage — $25 million in physical damage to the span and $25 million in loss of toll revenue. 

Worse, by exploiting a loophole in state regulations, ACE has managed to skirt terrorism coverage. The new one-year policy includes no coverage in the event of an attack. 

ACE spokeswoman Lisa Fleishman-Hicks said company policy forbids her from discussing details of individual policies. 

But bridge directors were quick to voice their frustration when they swallowed hard and approved the new contract on March 22. 

The Golden Gate Bridge District is an independent state entity whose board is made up of officials from San Francisco Bay area counties. 

The bridge presently operates on a $116 million annual budget.