Man has made many wonders in the world. It takes determination to change the face of the world and create history through revolutionary steps. The Golden Gate Bridge, a suspension bridge, built from the San Francisco
Peninsula all the way to Marin County is no exception to this. The second longest bridge of the United State and the seventh longest in the world, this bridge was completed in 1937 and became the symbol of pride for the people of San Francisco and the United States
Before the bridge was constructed, ferries used to move from one point to the other. This later resulted in clogging of the ferries at the bay. James Wilkins, an engineer, evolved an idea to build a bridge to span the Golden Gate Strait. However, the idea was taken up and further developed by Joseph Strauss. It was the time of Great Depression in U.S. and funds were not easily available for construction. Strauss was a visionary man who not only was a structural engineer but also a poet. The poetic side of his had a dream, which was openly criticized by his peers, and they believed the bridge could never be built and Strauss can never achieve his ambition. He proved wrong to all and in 1930; voters funded the project and raised $35 million by putting their assets up in collateral. Thus, construction began. It took more than four years to complete the project and finally on April 13th 1937 the bridge was completed followed by weeklong celebration by the crowd to mark this achievement. On May 28, 1937, it was officially open for vehicles at 12 noon. It is no surprise that on completion of the bridge Strauss who had a poetic streak wrote a poem, 'The Mighty Task is Done', which is displayed on the bridge. The real 'Golden Gate' is the strait the bridge spans and thus it got its name the 'Golden Gate Bridge'.
The Golden Gate Bridge can be approached from two points; south and north. South from San Francisco and north the Marin county. US Highway 101 and California State Highway 1 are used to reach the bridge. The north side only uses northbound US 101 and the parking is free for four hours with restrooms available. There is no toll when entering from the Marin County but $5 is charged from the San Francisco entrance.
To have a closer look from the south side there are many different approaches that can be taken. In San Francisco, the Lombard Street (US 101) west will take the tourist to the exit point marked 'Last SF Exit' just before the tollbooths. Another route can also be taken from Lincoln Avenue through Presidio. The parking is for $1 for one hour and only coins are used. There are only 81 parking spaces. The 'Hop On Hop Off' double-decker bus takes to the trolley services. San Francisco Munni's #28 and 29 buses go to the south side. Tourist can also go by bicycle but there are different timings for this and the sidewalk also changes daily. The schedule can be checked from Golden Gate, Highway and Transportation District authorities. The bridge can also be crossed by walking on the east sidewalk only but pets are not allowed for safety reasons.
The bridge is a breathtaking monument that runs 1.7 miles in length (8981 feet or 2737m) with a width of 90 feet (27m). The bridge has six lanes for vehicle movement. On morning of weekdays from Marin County, there are four lanes opened towards San Francisco and only 2 lanes towards Marin County. At evening time on weekdays, 4 lanes towards the Marin County are opened and 2 lanes toward San Francisco are opened.
The distance between the two towers is 4200 feet and the length of the cables that are used to support the floor is 80,000 miles weighing 22,000 tons. These two cables are 36.5 inches in diameter and each is 7,659 feet long containing 27,572 parallel wires. The weight of the steel used in this is more than 100,000 tons, and it was transported from New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania through the Panama Canal. The total weight of the bridge when built was 894,500 tons (811,500,00 kg) but now it is 887,000 tons (804,700,000 kg) due to the new decking material. The towers are 746 feet (227m) above water and 500 feet (152m) above the roadway. Each leg is 33 x 54 feet (10 x 16m). Each tower weighs 44,000 tons (40,200,000 kg) each. There are about 600,000 rivets in each tower.
The bridge has closed only three times in its history for winds over 70 mph. Although when initially designed by Joseph Strauss the design was termed as 'graceless and ham fisted' and it was much believed that it could not withstand the strong winds coming from the Pacific Ocean. However all these doubts have been proven wrong thanks to the work of architect Irving Morrow who designed this Art Deco Theme which has gained so much popularity. The other two occasions for the closure were; when President Franklin D. Roosevelt and French President Charles DeGaulle visited and the bridge celebrated its fiftieth birthday.
The paint of the bridge is orange vermilion or international orange that was selected by Morrow himself to blend the surroundings and also for visibility purpose during fog. The touches to the paint were constantly done for the first 27 years but in 1965 the original paint was removed due to corrosion and replaced with inorganic zinc silicate primer and an acrylic emulsion topcoat. There are now 38 painters for touch ups and 17 ironworkers working on the bridge to replace steel and rivets.
Today there are about 9,000,000 visitors annually coming to watch this historic monument and about 40 million people on an average cross the bridge per year. Only a walk on the bridge can complete mystifying and nothing else.