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Golden Gate Bridge Insurance Premium Up, Terrorism Coverage Gone
By Michelle Logsdon - April 10, 2002

The millions of travelers who plan to cross the Golden Gate Bridge this year better dust off their personal insurance policies and make sure they have adequate coverage before putting the pedal to the metal.

As of Monday, April 8, the Golden Gate Bridge is no longer insured for acts of terrorism. That leaves drivers to their own devices or in the hands of Fate.

In May 1937, Joseph P. Strauss, the chief engineer for the Golden Gate Bridge and highway district, showed amazing foresight when he wrote these words in his poem “The Mighty Task is Done” about the completion of the bridge:

“For this was spun its lithe fine form,

To fear not war, nor time, nor storm,

For Fate had meant it so.”

The company handing off its terrorism risk to Fate is ACE USA.

The Golden Gate Bridge District Board renewed their policy with ACE after shopping around approximately 20 insurance companies. Only two of those companies would offer terrorism coverage and the premium rates were very high.

The insurance broker for the bridge, Chris Ewers, knew it would be difficult to find an acceptable policy for the Golden Gate after Sept. 11, but threats to the structure following the attacks made his job almost impossible.

London’s Royal SunAlliance was interested in the prospect of insuring the structure. A spokesman for the company, Ned Leber, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “We were eager to be a player with the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s high-profile and well-built. We definitely thought we could make a profit on it.”

Royal wanted terrorism exclusions just like most other companies approached by Ewers. Initially, he refused any policy with the exemption. Ultimately, the board of directors decided to stay with ACE but knew coverage would be minimized and rates would be much higher.

The new policy is twice as expensive. Last year, the bridge district paid $500,000 for $125 million in coverage, including terrorist attacks. The new policy costs $1.1 million for $25 million in physical damage and $25 million for lost toll revenue. And the new policy does not cover terrorist attacks because of a legislative loophole ACE was able to utilize.

Bridge director Barbara Pahre told the San Francisco Chronicle the end result policy was not what they wanted. “I think we’re being taken advantage of. We feel powerless.”

ACE was contacted by Vice President of Communications Lisa Fleishman-Hicks said the company had no comment about the bridge policy at this time.

The higher premium rates could be offset by raising the toll from $3 to $5. Public hearings on that proposal are currently in progress.

Travelers concerned about the higher toll costs and the need to rely on their own insurance policy while crossing the bridge can be comforted by the continued presence of National Guard soldiers standing watch at the Golden Gate. Governor Gray Davis has spent more than $2 million on the troops since Sept. 11.


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