The Golden Gate Bridge is a 4200 ft long suspension bridge spanning the inlet of the San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean, named for the brilliant reflection of the sun upon that point. It is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of any city, and has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World.
A bridge between San Francisco and Marin County was first conceived in 1916, however it took until 1933 for construction to actually begin. Bridge-builder Joseph Strauss was chief engineer in charge, however responsibility for much of the engineering and architecture fell on other experts Leon Moisseiff: suspension designer, Irving Morrow: consulting architect, and Alton Ellis: principal engineer. The project introduced the revolutionary design of a thin roadway which would flex in the wind, greatly reducing stress by transmitting forces via suspension cables to two massive towers. In extreme circumstances, the bridge can sway almost 28 ft from side to side. This makes the bridge less vulnerable to strong winds and earthquakes; since its completion, the Golden Gate Bridge has been closed due to unsafe weather only three times.
When completed May 27, 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge had the longest suspension bridge span in the world; it still has the second longest span in the United States. The supporting towers are almost 820 ft tall; the 90-ft-wide roadway hovers 220 ft above the swirling tides. The two enormous cables are woven from 27,572 threads of steel each, which equate to a total length that equals approximately three times the Earth’s circumference. At the south end of the bridge, a 36.5 inch-wide cross-section of the cable is available for viewing.
An amusing fact: the famous International Orange color was originally intended as a sealant. However, the paint was a hit with the locals and enhanced the bridge’s visibility in fog, and so it remains today. The lighting that outlines the Art Deco-styled towers and cables was designed both for further safety and to complement the unique color.
As the bridge is part of both U.S. Route 101 and California Highway 1, its median markers now move to conform to heavy traffic patterns. On weekday mornings, four of the six lanes run southbound, and on weekday afternoons, four lanes run northbound. The bridge is also popular with pedestrians and bicyclists, and was built with walkways on either side; hours vary for foot and bicycle traffic. Souvenir shops and public restrooms are available on either side of the bridge.