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Monday, May 28, 2012 | Latest audio lessons → VOA Learning English

Golden Gate Bridge Still Shines

This year is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge in California. It opened to vehicle traffic on May twenty-eighth, nineteen thirty-seven. Since then, more than two billion vehicles have crossed the world-famous bridge linking San Francisco and Marin County. The bridge is named after the Golden Gate Strait. That narrow passage of water connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. The Golden Gate Bridge had the longest suspension span in the world at the time it was built. The suspended roadway stretches one thousand two hundred eighty meters between the bridge's two tall towers.

Today the Golden gate still rates among the ten longest bridge spans. Mary Currie works for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. She says the bridge represents one of the most extraordinary engineering projects of all time. She calls it an "engineering marvel" and says it gets award after award for what it means in civil engineering and structural engineering. She says the Golden Gate Bridge is also a place where "things happen first."

For example, it was the first suspension bridge to have to change the roadway deck. The bridge is twenty-seven meters wide and two thousand seven hundred eighty-eight meters long. Two large cables pass over the top of the bridge's towers. These structures stand two hundred twenty-seven meters above the water and one hundred fifty-two meters above the road. Each cable holds more than twenty-seven thousand five hundred strands of wire. Two hundred fifty pairs of vertical suspender ropes connect the support cables to the suspension bridge. This is part of what enables the bridge to move up and down by nearly five meters.

The project took four years to complete. Work began in nineteen thirty-three. The Golden Gate Bridge weighed more than eight hundred thousand metric tons when it was completed. The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper called it a thirty-five million dollar steel harp.

Joseph Strauss was the chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge project. But architect Irving Morrow gets credit for its bright orange color, known as International Orange. The Navy wanted the bridge painted in yellow and black. The Air Force had suggested red and white. But Mary Currie says Irving Morrow knew that orange would blend with the environment. It would contrast with the ocean and the air above, "and it would also allow the art deco styling to really stand out."

For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 04Jun2012)