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Bridging San Francisco Bay

Jeffrey Syken

When most people think of San Francisco, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the majestic Golden Gate Bridge at the ocean entrance to San Francisco Bay. Its beautiful "International Orange" art-deco towers framing the scene; the Marin headlands to the north with the shining city of San Francisco on the hilly peninsula to the south make it easy to understand why this is so. But there's another bridge in San Francisco that, in fact, is a contemporary of the Golden Gate Bridge (1937) and from a purely technical point-of-view, is the greater work: The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge. Locals refer to it simply as "The Bay Bridge" and it is the workhorse of the Bay Area, dwarfing the Golden Gate Bridge in volume based on the average number of vehicles that cross it daily. It is San Francisco's link to the continent (to the east) and its completion ended San Francisco’s isolation forever when it opened in November of 1936. There would be obstacles to overcome to get it built, both natural and man-made. The natural obstacles were the great depths and bay-floor conditions required to establish the many piers required for the exceptionally long bridge. The man-made obstacle/s was mainly the opposition of the War Department. Eventually, both would be overcome; the former by the engineers and the latter by the presidential election of the Bay Bridge’s main proponent in November 1928: Herbert Hoover.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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