Mention San Francisco and many immediately think of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

But, for the time being at least, another lesser-known crossing of San Francisco Bay is taking the limelight from its famous neighbour.

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, known by locals as simply the ‘Bay Bridge’, is passing its 80th anniversary.

Opened in late 1936, about six months before the Golden Gate crossing, the Bay Bridge is said to have one of the longest spans in the US and carries more than 240,000 vehicles a day.


Like many of the world’s long water crossings, the Bay Bridge is actually a combination of two halves with an island in the middle.

The older western section of 3,141 metres, links downtown San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island.

This part is a double suspension bridge with two decks, westbound traffic is carried on the upper deck and eastbound below on the lower deck. In days gone by, trains ran on the lower deck.

A 160 metre long tunnel carries traffic through Yerba Buena Island and joins with the bridge’s eastern section, which is a relatively new, sleek single deck with eastbound and westbound lanes of each side of the span – making it one of the widest bridges in the world.

The eastern side of the Bay Bridge connects with vibrant Oakland, which is the third biggest city in the San Francisco Bay Area; the eighth biggest in California; and the 45th biggest city in the U.S.

The Bay bridge has not escaped damage in San Francisco’s notorious earthquakes.

In the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, a section of the eastern span’s upper deck collapsed onto the lower deck and the bridge was closed for a month.

However, in a similar program to the Golden Gate, much of the Bay Bridge has been retrofitted to help it better resist earthquakes.

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