Charles “Chuck” Seim, an influential California bridge engineer whose career across five decades spanned the post-World War II growth era, has died. He was 93.
Seim not only admired the engineering, structure, and aesthetics of bridges, he also appreciated how bridges serve society.
He was a specialist in long-span bridges, the kind California is known for. After the state built its ninth toll bridge, he became their maintenance engineer. Five years in that role brought him the famous Golden Gate Bridge. After he inspected the iconic span, he replaced its corroded concrete deck with a new orthotropic steel deck.
An ASCE Life Member, Seim, P.E., F.ASCE, was one of the few people to work on all 10 of California’s automobile bridges. His expertise also took him to work on many other bridges around the world. Seim followed his bridge-building phase with a 24-year tenure working for his mentor, T. Y. Lin. As senior bridge engineer and then senior vice president for T.Y. Lin International, he consulted on bridges in the United States, South America, and Asia.
But his heart was always in the Bay Area, and at no better time than the 1950s, with the beginning of the Interstate Highway System.
“I don’t know whether I was the right person or not, but I was there; I worked hard and did the best that I could,” Seim once wrote.
First, he was employed by the California Department of Public Works (later Caltrans) as a junior bridge engineer overseeing construction of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. His career path soon led to the Dumbarton Bridge replacement, the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge as design group leader, and the Division of Bay Toll Crossings as bridge maintenance engineer from 1975-80.
From TYLI’s San Francisco headquarters, his many projects included the Lake Maracaibo Bridge in Venezuela, the Bridge of the Americas crossing at the Panama Canal, the Nanjing Third Yangtze River Bridge in China, the Cooper River Cable-Stayed Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina, and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge eastern span replacement.
Seim established his own firm in 2004. Two years later he received the John A. Roebling Medal for lifetime achievement in bridge engineering.