The Golden Gate Bridge

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

It took four years to build the Golden Gate Bridge, but today's seismic engineers estimate it could take less than sixty seconds to destroy if an earthquake's epicenter hits near the bridge...

It was 61 years ago this month that the Golden Gate Bridge first opened to vehicle traffic providing a major artery between Marin County and San Francisco. Now pictures of the city before the bridge was built seem incomplete. With its 746 foot international orange towers, its sweeping cables and its position on the foot of the ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge is both a major roadway for daily commuters and a popular tourist attraction.

Since the Golden Gate opened, nearly 1.5 billion people have crossed the 1.7 mile stretch. During its first 30 years of operation vehicle traffic jumped 750 percent, sparking the creation of both bus and ferry operations, which are subsidized by today's three dollar toll for southbound drivers.

While engineers did find a way to secure the bridge's towers in the heavy ocean currents, accommodating earthquakes was not part of their original design.

The nearby Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge, also built in the 1930s, provides an example of what occurs when tremors and old bridge designs mix. That bridge was hit hard by an earthquake in 1989, forcing the upper deck of the bridge to fall and killing several people traveling below.

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