Bridge News

Monuments of the Millennium Award Golden Gate Bridge

Monument of the Millennium group photo

On Wednesday, May 30, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) named the Golden Gate Bridge a Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium. The ASCE recognition came just days after the Bridge's 64th birthday on May 27, 2001.

"The new millennium reminds us of the tremendous impact civil engineering has had on the development of our society and the everyday lives of individuals around the world. It is fitting that one of the world's most recognizable icons would be chosen by ASCE for this special honor. The Golden Gate Bridge is an outstanding example of engineering ingenuity and dedication to ensuring the public's well being," said ASCE President Robert W. Bein, P.E.

The Monument of the Millennium award honors the civil engineering profession's contribution to the quality of life and well being of people and communities worldwide. It also acknowledges the creative spirit and ingenuity of the civil engineering profession serving as a symbol of engineering's finest moments in history. Civil engineering projects selected as Monuments of the Millennium inspire generations of engineers to continually 'get it done' in the face of those who would say 'it can't be built.'

"America's engineers have selected San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge as one of the greatest engineering achievements of an entire century," said Denis Mulligan, District Engineer. "This award honors the visionary men and women who designed and built this great, innovative bridge."

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of ten projects named as a Monument of the Millennium. In December 1999, the Panama Canal was recognized in the water transportation category. In April 2001, the Kansai International Airport, Osaka, Japan was recognized for airport design and development achievement. On May 22, 2001, the California Water Project was named for its achievements in water supply and distribution. On July 18, 2001, the Empire State Building will be honored as a great engineering feat as the world's leading skyscraper. The remaining five civil engineering achievements being recognized include dams, the interstate highway system, rail transportation, sanitary landfills/solid waste disposal, skyscrapers, and wastewater treatment and disposal.

While each monument exemplifies the use of engineering ingenuity to overcome major design and construction challenges, this is not the sole criterion. The Golden Gate Bridge was selected because, like the great civil engineering works of previous centuries, it uplifts the human spirit and creates pride in the communities it serves; uses state-of-the-art design and construction techniques to preserve the natural environment; and makes a significant contribution to regional and world economies. Most importantly, all of these monuments created a positive change in the way people lived and how they conducted business.

One of the most recognized landmarks in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge spanned the distance between geographically isolated areas to the north in Marin and Sonoma counties with the thriving City of San Francisco. The idea of spanning the Golden Gate Strait was considered as early as 1872, but it wasn't until 1916 when San Francisco's City Engineer Michael O'Shaughnessy began a national search for a engineer that could bridge the Strait. The possibility became closer to a reality when, on May 25, 1923, the California State Legislature enacted the "Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District Act" giving six counties (San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Del Norte) the right to organize as a special district and borrow money, issue bonds and collect tolls to construct the bridge. This led to the formation of the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District, which oversaw the design, construction and financing of the Bridge, under the leadership of Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss. The Bridge took just over four years to construct; construction commenced on January 5, 1933 and ended when the Bridge opened to traffic on May 28, 1937.

When the Golden Gate Bridge opened on May 27, 1937, with a main suspension span of 4,200 feet, it was the longest in the world. Now it is ranked as the 7th longest suspension span:

    Main Span Year Opened
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Japan   6,532 feet 1998
Great Belt East Bridge, Denmark   5,328 feet 1997
Humber Bridge,England   4,626 feet 1981
Jiangyin Yangtze River Bridge, China   4,544 feet 1999
Tsing Ma Bridge, China   4,518 feet 1997
Verrazano Narrows, New York   4,260 feet 1964
Golden Gate Bridge, California   4,200 feet 1937

Nearly 1.8 billion vehicles have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and today 116,000 vehicles cross daily.

Founded in 1852, ASCE represents more than 123,000 civil engineers and is the oldest national engineering society. The Monument of the Millennium award comes as a result of ASCE's participation in the National Academy of Engineering's Greatest Engineering Achievements project, in which more than 30 engineering societies canvassed their membership to determine the Top 20 engineering achievements. Ten civil engineering projects made the short list for inclusion in the Greatest Achievements Top 20 list.