Golden Gate Bridge
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The Golden Gate Bridge was conceived in 1917 by engineer Joseph Baermann
Strauss. Strauss faced 12 years of strong opposition to the idea of bridging
the Golden Gate. Ferryboat operators feared for their livelihood, and military
leaders and shippers were concerned that the bridge would bottle up the harbor.
Strauss sold the public on the idea, and in 1930 six coastal counties approved
bonds to build the Golden Gate Bridge.
Building began in 1933 with the North (Marin County) pier, which was built
on solid rock just above the waterline. The pier was the subject of intense
debate between geologists over the question whether the structure could withstand
an earthquake. Strauss agreed to deepen the North Pier's foundation 100 feet
below the surface and 35 feet into the bedrock.
The south pier was the most difficult part of the entire construction project.
The pier was to be constructed 1,200 feet from the south shore where the water
was over 100 feet deep. Divers reported zero visibility at this depth. Complicating
matters were the tides which swirled in and out of the bay at 7 mph and breakers
which could reach the level of 20 feet at times. On the bay bottom, rocks
were blasted away and picked up by dredges in an effort to level the bottom.
Part of the problem of dealing with the rough water was solved by the construction
of a 750 foot fender to ward off the waves and tidal action. Heavy steel boxes
were bolted to the bottom by divers and subsequently filled with concrete
until the pier rose 15 feet above the water. The fender itself became part
of the foundation of the bridge. A pier was built inside the fender allowing
workers access to the steel structure.
Each tower is composed of thousands of pieces of fabricated steel and rises
to a height of 750 feet. The spectacular giant cables were spun into place
from the anchorages in Marin and San Francisco. Both cables are 7,650 feet
in length and 36 inches in diameter. Each cable is composed of 27,252 feet
of pencil-thick wire.
The Golden Gate Bridge, built for a total cost of $33 million, was opened
on May 27, 1937. The Golden Gate is a flexible bridge, capable of a 21 foot
sway and a 10 foot sag. It can support the weight of trucks and cars jammed
bumper to bumper in all six lanes, plus pedestrians on every inch of the walkway,
even in gale winds.
The Golden Gate Bridge is the only toll bridge in California not under state
jurisdiction. The bridge is operated and maintained by the Golden Gate Bridge
Highway and Transportation District. Part of the $3.00 toll supports mass
transportation modes, ferries and bus service, which help to reduce traffic
on the bridge. For more information check out the Golden Gate Bridge website
at http://www.goldengate.org/goldengate/. Clicking on this link will open
a new browser window.
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