San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge approach shortly after opening, 1937.

Lesser known and slightly older than the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge has one of the longest spans in the United States and carries over 260,000 cars each day. Designed by Charles H. Purcell, it opened six months before the Golden Gate Bridge in 1936. After part of the East Span collapsed during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, work began on a seismic retrofit. Ultimately, the East Span was replaced and reopened in 2013.

Then a couple years later.

This c. 1936 postcard features a rendering of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge superimposed on a photographic image of San Francisco. The back of the postcard reads:

“The concrete and reinforcing steel used in constructing the bridge is sufficient to build 35 Russ Buildings (San Francisco), 35 City Halls (Los Angeles); or 35 L.C. Smith Buildings (Seattle).

The total length of the 2 ¼” suspender ropes will be 43 miles, and the total length of cable wire used will be 70,815 miles – nearly three times the circumference of the earth.

The bridge, which is the largest in the world and which cost $77,600,000 is being built for the California Toll Bridge Authority, of which Governor Frank Merriam is Chairman, by the State Department of Public Works, of which Earl Lee Kelly is Director and C.H. Purcell is Chief Engineer.

The bridge is financed entirely without taxation, its cost defrayed by sale of 4 ¾ per cent bonds issued against the prospective revenues of the bridge. These bonds have been purchased at a discount increasing the yield to 5 per cent by the Federal Reconstruction Finance Corporation and may eventually to be sold to the public.

In addition to the bonds purchased by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, financing came from the State Gas Tax Fund to be repaid out of tolls before the bridge becomes free to the public. Like a State highway, the completed bridge will be maintained out of the State Highway Fund.

Source: SFO museum


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