The Golden Gate Bridge, one of the longest suspension bridges in the world, spans the Golden Gate - the opening of San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean. Interestingly, the real 'Golden Gate' is actually the strait that the bridge spans.
Before the bridge was built, the access route between San Francisco and Marin County was through the ferry service. In the 1920s, engineer and bridge-builder Joseph Strauss started working on the idea that a bridge should be constructed across the Golden Gate. He spent more than a decade garnering support for its construction.
There were numerous obstructions to construction. Funds were scarce, it being the middle of the Great Depression. There was fierce opposition to the bridge from various lobbies for their vested interests. Experts opined a bridge could never be built there - the area often had winds of up to 60 miles per hour and strong ocean currents swept through a canyon below the surface. Moreover, furious winds and blinding fogs would make construction and operation impossible.
In spite of everything, Strauss persisted, and history was made when San Francisco voters overwhelmingly approved $35 million in bonds to construct the Golden Gate Bridge. Strauss was chief engineer responsible for overall design and construction but the final suspension design was conceived by Leon Moisseiff.
Construction, that began in January 1933, was finished in April 1937 at a cost of $35 million. Strauss pioneered new safety techniques like daily sobriety tests and hard hats. The iconic safety innovation was a net suspended under the floor, which saved the lives of 19 men during construction and became a norm even today.
Still 11 lives were lost when the work was underway, an outstanding feat at a time when it was normal for 1 man to be killed for every million spent in construction. Of the 11 that were killed from falls, 10 died when the net failed under the stress of a fallen scaffold.
And there is history behind its color too which is in orange vermilion, also called international orange. It was originally used as sealant for the bridge but locals persuaded residential architect Irving Morrow to use the dynamic orange color instead of the standard grey or silver. The orange blends with the bridge's beautiful setting and increases visibility during fogs.
More people have committed suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge than any other bridge in the world. It takes approximately 4 seconds to hit the water from the deck which is about 245 feet above the water. The impact trauma kills most jumpers almost instantaneously. In July 2010, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission allocated $5 million for the completion of the final design of the net system, which will hang 20 feet below the bridge, preventing suicides.
2012 marks the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. Plans are in the offing for 'The Golden Gate Festival' a public celebration to be held in May 2012 on the San Francisco waterfront.