by Jim Caroompas
When the San Francisco Bay Bridge opened in 1936, it was rightfully heralded as a major engineering feat. It took three years to construct the bridge, which is a combination of suspension (eastern side connecting SF to Yerba Buena Island) and cantilever (connecting Yerba Buena with Oakland), including the largest transportation bore tunnel in the world. The Golden Gate Bridge opened for business six months later, taking some of the glitter off of its older brother.
The total cost of the Bay Bridge, including the tunnel, was an eye-popping $77 million. It was blessed on opening day by by Cardinal Secretary of State Eugene Cardinal Pacelli, who would later come to be known as Pope Pius XII.
Thanks perhaps in part to that blessing, but certainly to the skill and dedication of the people involved with its creation, the bridge served cars (and originally, trains) without major incident until Oct. 17, 1989, when a portion of the roadway collapsed as a result of the Loma Prieta earthquake, resulting in one death.
To prevent such problems in the future, it was determined that the bridge needed a seismic retrofit. That work began in 2002; using modern construction modeling, state-of-the-art techniques and the political and bureaucratic advances we have undergone since 1936, it has only taken eleven years and $6.8 billion to repair what originally took three years and $77 million to build from scratch.
If that doesn’t seem like progress, think about this: no one had Twitter in 1936.