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11 Structures that Define America

Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, named for the Golden Gate Strait, which it spans, was the vision of chief engineer Joseph B. Strauss, who was told by contemporaries that such a bridge could not be built. Nevertheless, construction began on January 5, 1933. Nearly four and a half years, $35 million, and 11 worker fatalities later, the bridge was finally opened to an estimated 200,000 pedestrians on May 27, 1937, and to vehicles the next day. The bridge is 1.7 miles long and 90 feet wide. The suspension span was the longest in the world until New York City's Verrazano Narrows Bridge opened in 1964. The bridge has two principal cables passing over the tops of the two main towers. If laid end to end, the total length of wire in both main cables would total 80,000 miles. The Golden Gate Bridge is painted "International Orange," making it more visible to ships and the 38 million vehicles that cross it annually in the lingering and persistent fog.