Tuesday, December 15, 2009

History of a Legend Grown Old

In 1936, the East and West communities of the San Francisco Bay Area came together like never before. While ferries had long carried people across the Bay's often choppy waters, automobiles were the future of transportation. This meant local residents wanted a quick way to drive between the rapidly growing cities of San Francisco and Oakland. As expected, as soon as the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was built in 1936, it immediately became the favorite way to travel between San Francisco and the East Bay.

Cynics believed that the bridge would be impossible to build due to the potential impact of turbulent waters and gusty winds. Engineers had assumed that the area's high winds posed a greater threat than earthquakes, despite the bridge's proximity to two major fault lines. The varying soils and water depths, the inaccessibility to bedrock, and the unique design challenges inherent in developing a bridge to span eight miles across the Bay led some to believe that building such a bridge was unthinkable.

The largest and most expensive bridge ($77 million) of its time, the Bay Bridge faced not just natural obstacles, but political hurdles as well. There had been discussion of building a bridge between San Francisco and Oakland since the 1870s, but construction did not move forward until the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, with support from President Herbert Hoover, agreed to purchase bonds to be repaid later with bridge tolls.

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