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Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge, view from south-west
toward the Marin headlands.

View from south-east
toward the Marin headlands

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the opening into the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. It connects the city of San Francisco on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula and Sausalito on the south-facing Marin County headlands. Completed in 1937, it is widely considered a beautiful example of bridge engineering and was the longest suspension bridge until 1964.

The construction of the bridge began on January 5, 1933 under the aegis of the Works Projects Administration (WPA), a program instigated by Franklin D. Roosevelt to create public works through federal funds and alleviate the effects of the Great Depression. Chief engineer was Joseph Strauss. It was completed in April 1937 and opened to pedestrians on May 27 of that year. The next day, President Roosevelt pushed a button in Washington, DC signaling the start of vehicle traffic over the Bridge. The cost to build it was $35 million.

It is 1.22 miles (1970 m) long, the distance between the towers ("main span") is 4200 ft (1280 m) and their height is 750 feet (230 m) above the water.

The bridge has been declared one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It was for many years the suspension bridge with the longest main span in the world, but was superseded by the 1298m long Verrazano Narrows Bridge, New York City in 1964, and several other bridges since. It also had the world's tallest suspension towers at the time of construction, and held that record until more recently.

The bridge has six total lanes of vehicle traffic, and walkways on both sides of the bridge. The median barrier between the lanes is moved to conform to traffic. On weekday mornings, traffic flows mostly southbound into the city, four of the six lanes run southbound. Conversely, on weekday afternoons, four lanes run northbound. Usually, the eastern walkway is for pedestrians only, and the western walkway is for bicycists only, although this can change during times of construction. Both walkways are closed to pedestrian traffic during the evening and at night.

On September 1, 2002, the toll for southbound motor vehicles was raised from $3.00 to $5.00. Northbound motor vehicle traffic, cycling, and pedestrian traffic remain toll free.

Jumping from the bridge is a rather common method to commit suicide, with about one jump every two weeks, for a total of well over 1,200 suicides (officials stopped counting in 1995 when the number approached 1,000). Almost all people jump facing east, towards the city, probably due to the fact that only the eastern side of the bridge is open to pedestrians. The 220 ft fall takes four seconds and the person hits the water at 75 mph. As of 2003, only 26 survived the jump. The survivors, many of whom reported that they regretted the decision in mid-air, all hit the water feet first at a small angle and suffered multiple internal injuries and broken bones. The bridge board has so far resisted calls to add a suicide-prevention barrier to the four-feet tall rail.

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