History of the Design and Construction of the Bridge: A Lasting Monument

When asked how long the Golden Gate Bridge would last, Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss replied, "Forever." The Bridge was designed to be strong and durable, but to make it a lasting monument requires continual maintenance and improvements.

Since its opening in 1937, the Bridge has had many upgrades and retrofits:

  • bracing across the bottom of the deck, to make the deck twist less in high winds
  • a portion of the roadway deck was replaced with a lighter-weight structural layer
  • all of the 500 vertical lines you see on the bridge, the suspender ropes, were replaced one by one
  • seismic retrofits have been installed from one end of the Bridge to the other
  • some of the original riveted-together X-braced struts as seen in the arch portion of the Bridge over Fort Point have been replaced with higher-strength pieces of steel
  • prevention of rust goes on constantly; the signature International Orange color is always used for re-painting the historic structure to preserve its appearance
  • motion-measurement sensors have been installed throughout the Bridge, monitoring how it responds to wind, earthquakes, traffic loads, and temperature changes

The staff needed to maintain the Bridge includes engineers, ironworkers, electricians, and painters, to name a few. The workforce of the Bridge take great pride in their role in maintaining not only an essential transportation route but also a famous and beloved landmark.

More Images

To examine the condition of the wires that make up the main cables, Bridge workers remove the outer wire cover to expose the 27,572 parallel wires, and insert wedges to inspect the inner wires.

Electricians need a lift to reach and repair the Bridge lights.

A harness and latch hooks that secure workers to the Bridge are required safety equipment. This ironworker is wearing his safety harness while tightening a bolt near the top of one of the Bridge towers.

This paint rig, also known as a sky box, is about to travel up the suspender ropes for workers to apply a finish coat of paint over the primer.

View inside a sky box where suspender cables receive a coat of paint.

Rust and old paint are removed before the zinc-rich primer is applied, followed by the top coat of signature International Orange paint.

A new support under an approach at the north end of the Bridge replaces an original one and includes some modern seismic engineering features.

Explore this Topic Further

The Bridge Opening

Golden Gate Bridge Opening Fiesta Week from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (grade 3 to adult)
The Opening Fiesta was a week-long celebration. It started with pedestrian day on May 27 and automobile day on May 28. Among the many interesting events of the fiesta, Joseph Strauss read one of his poems.

Opening Day of the Golden Gate Bridge
This silent film shows the opening day celebrations and the first cars and pedestrians coming over the Bridge. Wow what a traffic jam! (4:35 minute video)

Maintaining and Upgrading the Bridge

Maintenance and Operations from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (grade 3 to adult)
Today a team of about 200 engineers, iron workers, painters, mechanics, electricians, communications technicians, streets and grounds workers, and other employees maintain all aspects of the Bridge.

Painting the Golden Gate Bridge from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (GGBHTD) (grade 3 to adult)
On this web site the GGBHTD describes the continuous process of painting the bridge to protect it from corrosion.

Major Projectson the Golden Gate Bridge from Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District (all ages)
This web page summarizes the Bridge improvement projects between 1953 and 2008.

Golden Gate Bridge Chronology from PBS American Experience (all ages)
This timeline chronicles important events in the history of the Golden Gate Bridge from 1849 until 1994 when it was declared a Wonder of the Modern world by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Bridge in our Lives

Chronology of Fun and Interesting Happenings from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (GGBHTD) (grade 3 to adult)
The first baby boy was born on the Bridge in 1958. Many other interesting events have occurred on or around the Bridge.

Bridge Traffic and Toll Data from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (GGBHTD) (grade 3 to adult)
On the day the Bridge opened in 1937 the toll was 50 cents each way, but it had dropped to 25 cents each way by 1955. Find out when it went up over the years and or when FasTrak was installed.

World Events during Bridge Construction from the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District (GGBHTD) (grade 3 to adult)
This timeline lists key political, arts, entertainment, sports, and pop culture events as well as inventions that occurred during the construction of the Bridge.