Golden Gate Bridge Facts

This page of the San Francisco Travel Guide provides you with important Golden Gate Bridge facts to enhance your visit to this famous San Francisco icon.

The name "Golden Gate" refers to the strait the the bridge spans, and came about around 1846. It reminded Captain John C. Fremont (an American military officer, explorer, and US senator) of a harbor in Istanbul that he had seen by the name of "Chrysoceras" (or Golden Horn).

He named the strait "Chrysopylae" - a mouthful of a word which means Golden Gate. Not surprisingly (and thankfully too!), Chrysopylae didn't really stick, and people took to calling it the Golden Gate Bridge instead.

See also: Visitor info / History / Images

Important Golden Gate Bridge Facts

  • Construction began on January 5th, 1933.
  • It took 4.5 years to construct.
  • It was completed and opened for Pedestrian day on May 27th, 1937.
  • It cost 35 million dollars to build.
  • Roughly 40 million vehicles cross the bridge each year.

Fun Golden Gate Bridge Facts

  • On opening day it was referred to as a "35 million Dollar Steel Harp" by the SF Chronicle!
  • It is the 9th longest suspension bridge in the world.
  • It is the second longest suspension bridge in the nation (after New York City's Verranzo Narrows Bridge).
  • It is one of the most photographed bridges in the world.
  • It is second on the "Top 10 Construction Achievements of the World" list.
  • It is listed as one of the "7 Wonders of the Modern World".

Technical Golden Gate Bridge Facts

  • The span of the bridge is 1.7 miles long including the approaches.
  • The main span is 4,200 feet long.
  • The color of the bridge is "International Orange" or "Orange Vermillion"
  • It is not, as commonly believed, painted from end-to-end each year, but rather re-touched as needed.
  • There are 17 iron workers and 38 painters who perform regular maintenance on the bridge.
  • The bridge is 90 feet wide.
  • The total weight of the bridge today is 887,000 tons, down from 894,500 tons, due to the replacement of new decking material.
  • 11 men died during construction, but 19 men were saved by the innovative use of safety netting below the bridge.
  • The steel that was used in the construction of the bridge was manufactured in plants in New Jersey and Maryland, from a company by the name of Bethlehem Steel. To get the steel to San Francisco, it was shipped through the Panama Canal.
  • In order to help the bridge manage heavy loads as well as high winds, it is designed to swing 27 feet and flex 10 feet.
  • Tolls are only collected traveling southbound. In 2010, the cost is $6 for cash tolls, and $5 for Fasttrak. There are plans to increase the tolls again in July of 2011, however it will not apply to most passenger vehicles.
  • There used to exist a pedestrian toll between its opening in May 1937 until December of 1970. It was eliminated on the 15th of December in 1970 by the Board of Directors.
  • The bridge has been closed 3 times since it opened due to high winds, but fortunately there was never any concern with structural damage.

    - Dec 1, 1951 due to 69 mile/hour winds - (closed for 3 hours)

    - Dec 23, 1982 due to 70 mile/hour winds (closed for 2 hours)

    - Dec 3 1983 due to 75 mile/hour winds (closed for 3 hours and 27 minutes)

Facts about the Towers, Cables and Lights:

  • The towers stand 746 feet above the water and 500 feet above the road.
  • Each tower weighs 44,000 tons.
  • There are approximately 600,000 rivets in each of the two towers.
  • The width of the main cables is measured at 36 3/8 inches.
  • The length of the main cables is measured at 7,260 feet.
  • The 2 main cables that pass over the tops of the towers are each made up of 27,572 strands of wire. It took six months to spin the 80,000 miles of wire that run through the two main cables.

Let's ponder that for just a second....

The distance of the Earth's circumference is measured to be roughly 24,900 miles - that means the amount of cable within the Golden Gate Bridge could wrap around the Earth's equator just over 3 times!!

  • There are about 128 high-pressure, 250-watt, sodium lamps along the bridge roadway.
  • There are twenty-four 400-watt lights that illuminate the towers.
  • There are 24 sidewalk lights which are 35-watt, low-pressure sodium lamps.
  • An airway beacon tops each tower.
  • Irving Morrow (responsible for much of the Art Deco design aesthetic of the bridge) designed the lighting of the bridge, such that there is less light at the top of the towers, giving the appearance that the towers are soaring into the sky, and possibly disappearing into the clouds!

Not-So-Fun Golden Gate Bridge Fact:

  • It is the number one suicide destination in the world, and has had over 1300 suicides since it's opening in 1937.

    *If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, please know that there is help! Please call the suicide prevention hotline
    @ 1 (800) 273-8255.

Read more about the Golden Gate Bridge: Visit / History / Images

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