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San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge

A double-deck span helps make the crossing between Fog City and Oak Town a sight to see.

Construction of the Bay Bridge took just over three years.
Photo caption
Construction of the Bay Bridge took just over three years.

Read all about it: “At Last the Dream Comes True,” proclaimed the San Francisco Chronicle on November 12, 1936, as the Bay Bridge opened in majestic defiance of naysayers, 195 days before its rival across the Golden Gate. It was an 8.4-mile, $77 million, double-deck marvel: two end-to-end suspension bridges over 100-foot-deep waters from San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island, and one of the world’s longest cantilever spans continuing eastward from there to Oakland.

drill baby
The tube linking the east and west spans at Yerba Buena Island is the world’s largest-diameter bore tunnel: 76 feet wide and four stories high.

making tracks
Until 1958, electric commuter trains ran alongside automobiles on the lower level of the bridge.

drive time
About 280,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily, some as “casual car pools”—a form of organized hitchhiking whereby drivers pick up strangers on their way to work.

shaky past
During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, a 50-foot section of the east span’s upper deck collapsed onto the deck below.

secure future
A seismic retrofit, due to be completed by 2013, will replace the entire east span with side-by-side decks for increased earthquake protection. 

Photography by John Kearney

This article was first published in September 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly.