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Golden Gate Bridge
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Vital Statistics:
Location: San Francisco and Sausalito, California, USA
Completion Date: 1937
Cost: $27 million
Length: 8,981 feet
Type: Suspension
Purpose: Roadway
Materials: Steel, concrete
Longest Single Span: 4,200 feet
Engineer(s): Joseph B. Strauss

Today, some call it the "most spectacular bridge in the world." But a century ago, building the Golden Gate Bridge seemed like an impossible task. Any bridge in this location would have to withstand brutal winds, tide, and fog. It would also sit less than eight miles from the epicenter of the most catastrophic earthquake in history. Only one engineer was willing to gamble that his bridge could withstand such destructive power. His name was Joseph Strauss.

Golden Gate Bridge
Click photo
for larger image.

Strauss used more than one million tons of concrete to build the anchorages -- the massive blocks that grip the bridge's supporting cables. The north pier, which supports the tower, was built easily on a bedrock ledge 20 feet below the water. But on the southern San Francisco side, Strauss had to build his pier in the open ocean, 100 feet below the surface. He built a huge water-tight cofferdam -- big enough to enclose a football field -- and pumped in hundreds of tons of concrete. By 1935, the towers were complete, and cable-spinning began. Two years later, the bridge was finished.

Strauss completed the $27 million bridge only five months after the promised date and $1.3 million under budget. For his efforts, Strauss received $1 million and a lifetime bridge pass.

Here's how this bridge stacks up against some of the longest-spanning bridges in the world. (total length, in feet)
Chart showing the relative size of the longest bridges in the world
Golden Gate Bridge 8,981'

Fast Facts:
  • The length of the steel wires used in the cables of the bridge is enough to circle the earth three times!
  • If the U.S. Navy had its way, the bridge might have been painted in black and yellow stripes to assure greater visibility for passing ships.
  • During construction, a safety net below the bridge saved the lives of 19 men who became known as the "Half-Way-to-Hell Club."
  • More than one million cars have crossed the bridge since it opened in 1937.

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