The Wonderful Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is a wonderful feat of engineering, admired all over the world for its technical brilliance and also the subtlety of its architectural design. This report outlines some of the main and interesting facts around the construction of this great bridge span and the people involved with its design.
The Golden Gate Bridge is located in San Francisco, USA, on the Golden Gate Strait where San Francisco Bay meets the Pacific Ocean. The Strait itself is approximately 3 miles long by 1 mile wide and is said to have been named by John C. Fremont, a Captain of Topographical Engineers in the US Army, around 1846. He chose to call the strait Golden Gate as it reminded him of a harbour in Istanbul known as Chrysoeros that translates to ‘Golden Horn.’
2,737m (1.7 miles)
Length of suspension span including main span and side span
1,996m (1.2 miles)
Length of main span (Distance between towers)
Length of side span
Overall Width of Bridge
Width of roadway between curbs
Width of pavement
Clearance of bridge above mean high water
Total weight of each anchorage
Original combined weight of bridge, anchorage’s and approaches
Combined weight of bridge, anchorage’s and approaches (1986)
887, 000 tons
How the Bridge Began
The idea of building a bridge that would cross the strait was first proposed in 1872 by Charles Croker, a railroad entrepreneur, but no further action was taken until 1916 when a local newspaper editor, James Wilkins started an editorial campaign. A national enquiry began to find out the cost and feasibility of such an enormous project and the majority of engineers believed building a bridge was not possible and would cost over $100 million.
One man, Joseph Baermann Strauss, who had already designed 400 such bridges believed that not only could the bridge be built, but would only cost between $25 and $30 million, paid for by a tolling system. Strauss submitted preliminary drawings on June 28, 1921, which estimated costs of $27 million and after many difficulties such as problems with funding, the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District was formed on December 4, 1928. The District was formed to design, construct and finance the building of the Golden Gate Bridge and on August 15, 1929, Joseph B. Strauss was selected as Chief Engineer with Leon S. Moisseiff, O.H. Ammann and Charles Derleth, JR selected as Consulting Engineers.
In November 1932, contracts worth $23,843,905 were awarded.
The Paint job
Originally the bridge was painted with a lead primer and lead based topcoat and this meant only touch up jobs was needed for the next twenty-seven years. In 1968 the maintenance staff realised that advanced corrosion was occurring and so the original paint was removed and replaced with inorganic zinc sulphate primer and a vinyl topcoat. In 1990 the topcoat was again changed this time to acrylic emulsion to meet air quality standards.The maintenance of the paintwork is continual as it gives protection from the high salt content in the air, which can rust or corrode steel components.
The Art Deco Theme
Even after Strauss and Moisseiffbegan to change the new design, it wasn't until Consulting Architects Irving F. Morrow and his wife Gertrude C. Morrow joined the project that the art deco styling, which was prominent in this era, began to take shape. The team of husband and wife added the subtle differences to the design such as simplifying pedestrian railings so they were placed far enough apart to allow motorists an unobstructed view of the fabulous scenery. The light posts were changed to a lean, angled form and wide, vertical ribbing was added on the horizontal tower bracing to catch the suns light on the structure. The rectangular towers were also designed so that as they went higher they become narrower thus making them higher than they really are. Such architectural enhancements as these define the Golden Gate Bridge's art deco look. It is this subtlety which is known and admired all over the world.
Until February 17, 1937 only one fatality had occurred and this set a record in an area where at least one man per million dollars spent had died. However, on February 17, 1937 ten men plunged to their death when a scaffold fell through the safety net.
1872 . Earliest discussion of building a bridge to span the Golden Gate Strait.
May 25, 1923. The state legislature passes the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District Act of California into law.
December 4, 1928. Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District is incorporated as the entity to design, construct, and finance the Golden Gate Bridge.
August 27, 1930. Joseph Strauss submits his final plans for the bridge to the District Board of Directors.
November 4, 1930. Voters within the 6 counties of the District approve the $35 million bond issue to finance construction of the bridge.
January 5, 1933. Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge begins.
May 27, 1937. Golden Gate Bridge opens to pedestrian traffic
May 28, 1937. Golden Gate Bridge opens to vehicular traffic at twelve noon. The bridge opened ahead of schedule and under budget.
July 1, 1971. Remaining original bonds issued for construction of the bridge are retired. $35 million and almost $39 million in interest were financed entirely from bridge tolls.
February 22, 1985. The one-billionth car crosses the Golden Gate Bridge.
August 15, 1985. Construction completed on the replacement of the original roadway with modern orthotropic steel plate deck.
May 27, 1987. Golden Gate Bridge celebrates its 50th Anniversary.
September 2, 1998. United States Postal Service unveils Golden Gate Bridge commemorative stamp.
March 1999. The Golden Gate Bridge awarded number two position in Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century by CONEXPO-CON/AGG SECOND ONLY TO Chunnel Tunnel (Channel Tunnel).