Little Bits of History

It Can’t Be Done

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 28, 2010

Golden Gate Bridge under construction

May 28, 1937: President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushes a button in Washington, DC signaling traffic in San Francisco, California, officially opening the Golden Gate Bridge to vehicles. The bridge opened to 200,000 celebrating pedestrians the day before. The bridge is part of US Route 101 and California State Route 1.

The bridge connects northern San Francisco with southern Marin County, a feat that was accomplished by ferry prior to the bridge’s construction. Joseph Strauss began drawing conceptualizations for a bridge spanning the Golden Gate Straight in 1921. Construction on the suspension bridge began January 5, 1933. The total length of the bridge is 1.7 miles with the longest span measuring 4,200 feet. At the time of construction, Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. There are six lanes of traffic; moveable cones allow for four lanes in one direction and two in the other, with changes for rush hour traffic patterns. It is also open to pedestrians and bicycles with special lanes built for the slower traffic.

The toll for the bridge is $5 when entering San Francisco. All pedestrian traffic is free. The bridge is notorious as a suicide venue. More than 1,200 people have jumped to their deaths. It is impossible to get an accurate count as many suicides are not witnessed. Some who survive the initial jump drown or die of hypothermia since the waters get as cold as 47° F. Twenty-six jumpers have survived the 220 foot drop.

The bridge was originally billed as “the bridge that can’t be built” but through hard work and determination the builders managed to combat the tides, the winds, the fogs, costs, and danger. Only eleven men perished during construction – ten of them at one time when the safety net malfunctioned. The bridge is built to withstand 100 mph winds and has a 27 foot sway allowance. The bridge is painted international orange. Due to salt issues, in 1965 a program to remove all the original paint and apply a special paint to slow erosion was undertaken. It took 30 years to complete the task and now paint is maintained with touch-ups in an ongoing, as-needed basis.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” – Henry Ford

“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers.  But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” – Newt Gingrich

“Work isn’t to make money; you work to justify life.” – Marc Chagall

Also on this day:
In 1999, the restoration of Leonardo da Vinci’s
Last Supper was revealed.
In 1892,
John Muir organized the Sierra Club.

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