The crossing of the Golden Gate Strait was for many years accomplished by a ferry running between the Hyde Street Pier at the foot of Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco and Sausalito in Marin County. The idea of a bridge to span the Golden Gate Strait was brought up in an article by the engineer James Wilkins. The bridge later earned its name, Golden Gate Bridge, after a mention of it in 1927, by San Francisco city engineer M. M. O’Shaughnessy.
The bridge was the idea of Joseph Strauss, an engineer responsible for over 400 drawbridges, though they were far smaller than this project and mostly inland. Starting in 1921 with his first drawings that were far from approved, Strauss spent over a decade drumming up support in Northern California. Strauss' initial design comprised a massive cantilever on each side connected with a central suspension segment. Other key figures in the bridge's construction include architect Irving Morrow, responsible for the Art Deco touches and the choice of color, and engineer Charles Alton Ellis and bridge designer Leon Moisseiff, who collaborated on the complicated mathematics involved.
The project cost over $27 million.
In May 1924, a hearing, through a petition, was heard by Colonel Herbert Deakyne for the Secretary of War in a request to use land for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. Col. Deakyne, in the Secretary of War's name, approved to give the land needed for the bridge structure and leading roads to the "Bridging the Golden Gate Association" and both the San Francisco and the Marin counties pending further bridge plans by Mr. Strauss.
The bridge spans the Golden Gate.The Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District was incorporated in 1928 as the official entity to design, construct, and finance the Golden Gate Bridge. The District includes not only the City & County of San Francisco, and Marin County, in whose boundaries the bridge sits, but also Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Del Norte counties. Representatives from each of the six counties sit on the District's Board of Directors. Voters within the District approved funding for the project in 1930 through a special bond issue that put their homes, farms and business properties up as collateral. This bond issue raised the initial $35 million to finance the building of the Bridge. Construction began on January 5, 1933. The construction budget at the time of approval was $30.1 million. Actual construction costs turned out to be $36.7 million, resulting in a cost overrun of 22%. The last of the construction bonds were retired in 1971, with $35 million in principal and nearly $39 million in interest being financed entirely from tolls. Strauss, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, placed a brick from his alma mater's demolished McMicken Hall in the south anchorage before the concrete was poured. A unique aspect of the bridge's construction was the safety net set up beneath it, significantly reducing the expected number of deaths for such a project. 11 men were killed from falls during construction, and approximately 19 men were saved by the safety net. 10 of the deaths occurred near completion, when the net itself failed under the stress of a scaffold fall. The 19 workers whose lives were saved by the safety nets became proud members of the (informal) Halfway to Hell Club.
On the south side of the bridge, a 36 3/8" wide cross section of the cable containing 27,572 separate wires is on display.Weeks of civil and cultural activities called "the Fiesta" surrounded the opening of the bridge, completed in April 1937 and opened to pedestrians on May 27 of that year, Mayor Angelo Rossi presiding. The next day, President Roosevelt pushed a button in Washington, DC signaling the official start of vehicle traffic over the Bridge at noon. When the celebration got out of hand, the SFPD had a small riot in the uptown Polk Gulch area.
A photograph of the bridge from a boat underneath.Since its completion, the bridge has closed due to windy conditions five times; 1951, 1982, 1983, 1996, and 2005. The 1982 event in particular was severe enough to set the bridge in visible motion, undulating in a motion somewhat reminiscent of the catastrophic "Galloping Gertie" in Washington State.
To commemorate Joseph Strauss for his part taken in the construction of the bridge, a statue of him was relocated in 1955 near the structure to remind people how important his work was in the building of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The center span was the longest among suspension bridges until 1964 when the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was erected between the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn in New York City. The Golden Gate Bridge also had the world's tallest suspension towers at the time of construction, and retained that record until more recently. In 1957, Michigan's Mackinac Bridge surpassed the Golden Gate Bridge's length to become the world's longest two tower suspension bridge in total length between anchorages. The longest center suspension span in the world and the longest two tower suspension bridge between anchorages is currently the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in Japan.
A typical view of the bridge from the Presidio as the fog rolls in.
Advection fog at the Golden Gate Bridge, San FranciscoAs the only road to exit San Francisco to the north, the bridge is part of both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 and on an average day there are 100,000 vehicles crossing the bridge. The bridge has six total lanes of vehicle traffic, and walkways on both sides of the bridge. The median markers between the lanes are moved to conform to traffic patterns. On weekday mornings, traffic flows mostly southbound into the city, so four of the six lanes run southbound. Conversely, on weekday afternoons, four lanes run northbound. While there has been discussion concerning the installation of a movable barrier since the 1980s, the Bridge Board of Directors, in March 2005, committed to finding funding to complete the $2 million study required prior to the installation of a moveable median barrier. The eastern walkway is for pedestrians and bicycles during the weekdays and during daylight hours only, and the western walkway is open to bicyclists on weekday afternoons, weekends, and holidays. The speed limit on the Golden Gate Bridge was reduced from 55 mph (88 km/h) to 45 mph (72 km/h) on October 1, 1983.
On September 1, 2002, the toll for Southbound motor vehicles was raised from US$3.00 to $5.00. Northbound motor vehicle traffic, cycling, and pedestrian traffic remain toll free. The rate for two-axle vehicles and motorcycles with cash is $5 and $4 with FasTrak electronic RF payments. For vehicles with more than two axles, the toll rate is $2.50 per axle.
On November 10, 2006, the Board of Directors of the Golden Gate Bridge District recommended a corporate sponsorship program for the bridge, as it has been losing money for several years. The Public Information Committee has said that any sponsorship program will not include changing the name of the bridge, or placing advertising on the bridge itself, although it's not clear what such a deal would include. As of 2006, Phase I of the project, which involved investigating potential sponsors of the bridge and analyzing the fiscal benefits has been completed, and Phase II, actual implementation of the program, is awaiting a go-ahead from the Board. As of February 2007, the Board has made a $1 toll increase their most favored option to increase funding.