15 votes

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge


The Bay Bridge - West Spans

Photo taken by Michael Goff on April 20, 2008


BH Photo #122015

Street Views 


The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is one of the most impressive engineering structures in the United States. It is also one of the most important transportation links in the United States, serving as the terminus of an interstate highway and as the linchpin for the transportation network of the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the nation's largest metropolitan regions. The bridge has been recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers as a nationally significant structure from the standpoint of engineering as well as its importance in the transportation history of California and the nation. The Bay Bridge was also a milestone in the political history of the Bay Area. The history of the Bay Area is filled with controversies over transportation projects, from the 19th century debates over subsidies to the railroads, continuing through the freeway revolt of the 1950s and seemingly endless debates between supporters of transit and highway development in more recent decades. The long debate over construction of the Bay Bridge is remarkable for the fact that the people of the Bay Area and their political leaders united behind it with almost unanimous support. People may disagree as to whether the Bay Bridge is more important for its engineering, its role in transportation history or for its importance in the politics of the area. The structure is highly significant in all of these different ways.

- Historic American Engineering Record


Suspension bridge over San Francisco Bay on I-80 connecting San Francisco, Yerba Buena Island, and Oakland. New eastern span is a 1400 foot single anchored suspension bridge
San Francisco, San Francisco County, California, and Alameda County, California
Open to traffic
Built 1936; Key System tracks removed 1958; rehabilitated 1962; partial collapse due to earthquake in 1989; west span seismic retrofit 2013; east span replaced 2013.
- Charles E. Andrew (Bridge Engineer)
- Charles H. Purcell (Chief Engineer)
- General Construction Co. of Federal Way, Washington (Contractor)
- Moran and Proctor of New York, NY (Center suspension anchorage)
- Public Works Administration
- Ralph Modjeski of Bochnia, Poland (Consulting Engineer)
- Interurban
- Interurban Electric Railway (IER)
- Key System
- Sacramento Northern Railway (SN)
Consists of western double suspension bridge with 2 level roadway and eastern self-anchored suspension bridge, with concrete deck girder approach spans at east end. Eastern span was originally cantilever steel through trusses, replaced in 2013.
Length of largest span: 2,310.2 ft. (0.4 mi.)
Total length: 20,608.9 ft. (3.9 mi.)
Deck width: 58.1 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 14.0 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on August 13, 2001
Also called
Emperor Norton Bridge - never approved
The Bay Bridge
James "Sunny Jim" Rolph Bridge - very unofficial
Approximate latitude, longitude
+37.81167, -122.36167   (decimal degrees)
37°48'42" N, 122°21'42" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
10/556187/4185111 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Oakland West
Average daily traffic (as of 1997)
Inventory numbers
CA 33-25 (California bridge number)
NRHP 00000525 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
CA 34-3 (California bridge number)
BH 10802 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of December 2012)
Overall condition: Fair
Superstructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Good (7 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 57 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • December 13, 2022: New photo from Brandon Cooper
  • November 20, 2022: New photos from Josh Schmid
  • October 4, 2022: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • August 15, 2022: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • June 25, 2022: New photo from Jim Kuhn
  • April 11, 2022: New photos from John Bernhisel
  • January 9, 2022: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • November 5, 2021: New photos from Mike Garland
  • May 22, 2020: Updated by David Chesterman: Corrected largest span. Span previously listed was for new cable stay section on the east side. The twin suspension bridges on the western side are still much longer.
  • January 18, 2020: New photos from Geoff Hubbs
  • June 13, 2019: Updated by Clark Vance: Added category "Moran and Proctor"
  • May 11, 2018: New photo from Leslie R trick
  • April 11, 2018: New photos from Richard Doody
  • November 10, 2017: New photos from Christopher Finigan
  • March 5, 2017: New photos from Daniel Barnes
  • March 5, 2017: Updated by Christopher Finigan: Added category "Public Works Administration"
  • November 22, 2016: New photo from Sean Dickinson
  • November 17, 2016: New Street View added by Luke
  • January 16, 2016: New photos from Sean Dickinson
  • January 12, 2015: Updated by Dave King: Added HAER description
  • October 27, 2014: New photos from Sean Dickinson
  • September 7, 2014: New photo from Luke
  • September 6, 2014: New photos from Royce and Bobette Haley
  • November 26, 2013: New photos from Sean Dickinson
  • September 3, 2013: Updated by Roger Deschner: Replacement eastern span has been opened to traffic.
  • August 11, 2013: Updated by Luke Harden: Added categories "Sacramento Northern Railway", "Interurban", "Railroad", "Rail-to-road", "Rail-and-Road"
  • April 9, 2013: New photo from Sean Dickinson
  • December 8, 2012: New photos from Sean Dickinson
  • May 22, 2012: New photos from Sean Dickinson
  • November 26, 2011: Removed duplicate listing; placed in both San Francisco and Alameda counties
  • November 6, 2011: New photos from Craig Philpott
  • November 4, 2011: New photos from Craig Philpott
  • August 27, 2011: New photos from Sean Dickinson
  • January 9, 2011: New photo from Craig Philpott
  • September 29, 2010: New Street View added by Craig Philpott
  • September 25, 2010: New photos from Craig Philpott
  • August 14, 2010: New photos from Craig Philpott
  • March 21, 2010: New photos from Craig Philpott
  • February 17, 2010: New photo from Craig Philpott
  • June 5, 2009: Updated by Kim Harvey: Future Prospects, adding HAER photos
  • August 19, 2008: New photos from Michael Goff
  • July 4, 2008: Updated by Kim Harvey: added link of replacement bridge being built
  • March 30, 2008: Updated by J.R. Manning: Added Bridge to "Lincoln Highway" Category



San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted September 24, 2019, by George A Oakley (Georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I remember trying to hitchhike over this bridge from the Oakland side to San Fransisco around September 1980.I was picked up by the police who gave me a ride over the bridge to San Fransisco after telling me I couldn't hitchhike on the bridge.Believe it or not I hitchhiked from Pa to Ca during September 1980.Made it cross country in 6 days.Talk about an adventure!

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted September 24, 2019, by Daniel

there's been a section sitting at Laney for a couple years. it's now outside, unpainted, just sitting there rusting (it used to be inside).

no clue what their plans are for it.

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted September 24, 2019, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Parts salvaged from the historic east spans are slowly popping up across California. Here are a few locations where they can be seen:

"Signal" public art: 699 Avenue of the Palms, Treasure Island

The Kids Truckee River Railroad Platform: Truckee River Regional Park

Bay Bridge "Centennial Art Gate": 6881 Mt Lassen Ave,Joshua Tree Harrison House at Joshua Tree National Park




San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted February 24, 2018, by Christopher Finigan

The reason why the Eastern Span was replaced was primarily due to its foundations. The Western Span is constructed on caissons going all the way down to the bedrock underneath the bay. The Eastern span, however, was constructed on timber pilings that went only 100-150 ft into the soil beneath the bay. In an earthquake, the soil, which is mostly clay, will shake like a bowl of jello in what is known as amplification. The wooden pilings would have collapsed and the bridge would have plunged into the bay.

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted November 19, 2016, by Brian J. Patterson (pattersonbj [at] earthlink [dot] net)

Unlike some of the commenters on this bridge, I LIKE the new section's design. As for the problems Caltrans is having, rest assured they could have had the same, or WORSE problems performing a retrofit to the fracture-critical truss the new section replaced.

Two key facts to remember--quality control MATTERS, and if you want something precision made out of top quality materials, DON'T BUY FROM RED CHINA! “The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price has faded from memory.”

Thanks and kudos to the San Francisco Chronicle for reporting on this issue BEFORE a major earthquake drops the bridge into San Francisco bay. With the "light of truth" shining mercilessly upon them, Caltrans may yet "fix" the bridge to conform to its design, and perform as designed.

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted November 13, 2015, by Matt Lohry

Interesting write-up; very well put. Unlike the writer, however, I actually do have feelings for the new bridge...the kind of feelings that make a barf bag more than necessary!

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted November 13, 2015, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Nice article on the old bridge as it goes away:


San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted May 11, 2015, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

As a proponent of historic bridges... in regards to the latest problems with this bridge as shown here http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Plague-of-problem... I think only one graphic truly conveys how I feel.

6.4 BILLION dollars they spent on this bridge?! And still all these problems?! You can't tell me you couldn't have retrofitted and rehabbed the historic truss for 6.4 BILLION dollars...

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted June 15, 2014, by Clark Vance (cvance [at] dogmail [dot] com)

I do not care to comment on the correctness of any of this, from Chinese steel to replacing an historic cantilever, but I found the photos and diagrams of the new structure interesting.


San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted October 9, 2013, by David Grieshaber (dg [at] aradia [dot] com)

Some people are making an effort to reuse some this fantastic bridge! We are a group trying to save some of this steel and concrete for historic purposes and create modern eco housing and a coworker multi-use space. http://BayBridgeHouse.org

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted September 3, 2013, by Matt Lohry

Hmm... I wonder how many Wal-marts it leads to...

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted September 3, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

One of the largest and most complex structures ever built on this planet, and one of the most important historic bridges in the United States, has forever been severed by the opening of the Chinese constructed Eastern Spans of the Oakland Bay Bridge. Unlike the previous bridge, this new bridge has been riddled with structural problems, is way over budget, and did not use American steel. http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/64b-sf-oakland-bay-bridge...

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted April 22, 2013, by Andrew Pearce

Pot metal is any old junk that can melt at relatively low temperatures. Usually it's a cheap combination of zinc and tin, sometimes there is a bit of aluminum or lead in it. It's used for castings of things that don't need great physical strength, and can have a less than uniform appearance.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted April 22, 2013, by Clark Vance (cvance [at] dogmail [dot] com)

Cheap, low temp, zinc alloy, good for casting inexpensive parts. Brittle and weak in tension--breaks when bent. Usually slang for any substandard alloy.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted April 21, 2013, by AR

What's "pot metal?"

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted April 13, 2013, by Kirk Kirkland

Let's discuss where our scrapped bridges end up. Hint: It isn't on these shores. You'd think that perhaps we could reuse the metal for projects here. But the truth is most winds up in the same place that brings us cheap pot metal products we find on Wal-mart shelves. And the USA loses again.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted April 13, 2013, by Anonymous

You see right there. The only reason you want their name is to threaten violence. You can't win on the merits of your argument so you threaten violence. The minute you do that you've admitted defeat. Why couldn't you simply chime in and support patriotic leanings instead of somehow justifying the use of Chinese steel in our nation's infrastructure? Let's leave this topic alone and get back to admiring bridges.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted April 9, 2013, by Carolyn Susor (susorcar [at] yahoo [dot] comn)

Now isn't that just like a bunch of guys-if we weren't on the Internet, the fists would be flying. Now, if it was women, we'd say nice things about you, but then talk about you behind your backs.

(this is all tongue-in-cheek BTW-just to lighten the mood :)

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted April 3, 2013, by Anonymous

There are indeed contract provisions requiring American Steel on highway contracts. I don't work in California, so I'm not familiar with their policies, but the law itself does exist. You may want to look into what excuse they came up with to try and circumvent the requirements.

The Republican-Democrat debate has nothing to do with this. Both parties are equal opportunity liars and thieves who'd sell out you the citizen who pays the bill at any time for any price.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted April 3, 2013, by Matt Lohry

I've noticed that those who turn these discussions into politically biased bash sessions also don't have the jewels to put their names with their air-headed comments! As I mentioned before, I AM Republican, but that certainly doesn't mean that I support Chinese steel, and that certainly doesn't make me anti-American! Obama is about as anti-American as they get--last time I checked, he was a DEMOCRAT! See? Doesn't make sense at all, does it?? This has absolutely ZERO to do with politics, and everything to do with the interests of America! Get a brain, and use it before posting!

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted April 2, 2013, by Anonymous

Why do you take offense if you aren't the one who supported Chinese steel being used? The fact is they should have passed a LAW saying that the steel and labor had to come from America. That bridge should be ONE-HUNDRED PERCENT Made In USA. Period. If you support the use of Chinese steel then yes you are an anti-American republican. Typical.

On the day that they open that atrocity I'm going to be among the protesters protesting it being Made In China.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted March 31, 2013, by Matt Lohry

Inaccurate stereotype--I'm a heartless Republican, and I hate the new bridge. This has nothing to do with partisan politics, and everything to do with common sense. Anyone with half a functioning brain cell can see right off the bat that this project is as poorly planned out and executed as it could possibly be, with the best interests of America not even considered.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted March 31, 2013, by Anonymous

Why don't you go live in communist China if you love it so much. You must be a heartless republican.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted March 28, 2013, by Lyon Wonder (lyon_wonder [at] yahoo [dot] com)

IMO, the new bay bridge was “designed by politicians” and political considerations were more important than sensible engineering. The replacement span was originally supposed to be a "signature" cable stay and there were even other proposed alternatives that looked better than the actually-built new bridge, but the politicians, namely gov Arnold Schwarzenegger, "terminated" the signature cable-stay design for the cheap Chinese alternative. Heck, when Schwarzenegger was governor he actually visited the Chinese factory where components for the bridge were being built.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted March 28, 2013, by Matt Lohry

Sorry, but I sharply disagree on all of Anon's points--not to be critical, but to simply point out that this could have been executed far better than it is with this project...first, as Nathan pointed out, one side of one deck section came loose--pretty darn good for an earthquake that did substantial damage to most newer structures! Two large pins (or bolts) sheared off; that's it. No structural damage to the superstructure at all. I predict that this will be a huge issue with the cable support bolts on the new slab, since new bolts have already broken on it, and it's not even open yet. They're quick to blame US bolts, I've noticed, BTW...New bridges are probably mostly bad architecture, but the old bridges that we on this site favor are straight-up civil engineering--every member not only looks good, but serves a critical structural purpose. New bridges cannot make that claim. As for the steel comment, if the US couldn't produce the steel for one lousy bridge project, then we'd be in serious trouble...issue is, we couldnt match China's low prices--and refused to match their ultra-low quality. If Caltran want to pay cruddy steel prices, then they'll get cruddy China steel. I see what is constantly happening to China's new bridges in their own country--collapse after collapse; shoddy workmanship and design, and shoddy material. Sorry, a "Made in China" MOB is something that I will never understand and refuse to support. Ok, I'm done.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted March 27, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Living on solid ground here in Michigan I don't claim to be an expert on seismic issues relating to bridge preservation. Its not an area I specialize in. One of the many things I don't understand is why the lacing and lattice and rivets was seen as such a problem with this bridge, especially when many other bridges in the area including Golden Gate Bridge, retain these elements. Furthermore, while I don't dispute that the bridge as-built may be a risk with earthquakes, the section that collapsed in the previous earthquake was just a deck section. While serious, this seemed to me to be more a problem with the deck sections, not with the overall truss itself which was not damaged.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted March 27, 2013, by Anonymous

I don't understand the hatred on this site towards the replacement project. The old bridge is not safe. It will collapse in a major earthquake - it almost did in 1989, and studies show that there is a 70% chance of an earthquake large enough to destroy the bridge in the next 30 years.

The only alternative to replacement is a major retrofit which would include the replacement of almost every single member, just like the suspension span. ALL the lacing would be removed and replaced with plate girders or box beams. ALL the rivets would be removed and replaced with bolts. The appearance would be radically altered and little historic material would survive.

Bridges are architecture - which according to our Roman friend Vitruvius must be solid, useful, and beautiful. The old bridge doesn't hold up here. I am all for historic preservation when it is possible to create safe, useful, and attractive architecture out of existing structures but it simply isn't possible in this case.

On the Chinese steel point: American companies were welcome to bid. None of them did. ALL of the bids came from overseas. That may say something about our economy, but it's not the bridge designer's fault that the US isn't capable of producing the needed materials.

Things could be much worse: the people of San Francisco rejected a viaduct approach which was a two mile long ugly concrete bridge for a "signature span". The self-anchored suspension bridge, while not what I consider optimal, is at leas an interesting technology and much better than what could have happened.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted March 27, 2013, by Don Morrison

Sounds like the new bridge might be "fracture critical".

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted March 27, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Not only will this project result in the demolition of half of one of the most significant built structures in the history of the United States, the replacement bridge is a piece of junk. Like buying a bridge from the bargain bin at Walmart.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted March 27, 2013, by Julie Bowers (Jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Repair and replace by another company please!

This pisses me off.

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted March 27, 2013, by Anonymous

Wow, if the bolts are so important and SO hard to reach after other segments have been installed around them, WHY wouldn't they do a quality audit BEFORE they install them?

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted March 27, 2013, by Lyon Wonder (lyon_wonder [at] yahoo [dot] com)

It could take 7 years and cost $240 million to tear down the old Bay bridge cantilever span after the new replacement span is opened to traffic this fall.


And the new replacement span is having problems too since 30 of the 288 giant bolts holding together the new bridge span have snapped.


San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted June 26, 2011, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

American made toilet photo courtesy of Todd Baslee

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted June 26, 2011, by Matt Lohry

The other just-as-sickening aspect of this is the fact that many jobs and revenue for our steelworkers and industry could have been generated by having this work done here rather than giving it to stinking China, just to save a lousy $400 million on a project that has a projected total price of well over $7 BILLION!! Seems very anti-American to me!! I'm sorry, but CALDOT blew it on this one, big time!!

San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
Posted June 26, 2011, by Matt Lohry

This makes me want to projectile vomit just thinking about it...according to the New York Times (see link below), the beautiful cantilevered through truss portion of this bridge is being replaced with--get this--a nasty, disgusting Wal-Mart inspired MOB manufactured in China!! CHINA!!!! Just what I want to see--a big, nasty, MOB with the stamp "Made in China" emblazoned boldly for all the world to see!!


The bridge will be assembled here, but the superstructure is MADE IN CHINA!! )8>Q

I can't even put my utter disgust into words! Hey, Tony, how 'bout a big, nasty toilet award for these idiots!! Nathan, I may need a truckload of those little brown barf bags delivered PRONTO!! BLEAHH!!

San Francisco Bay Bridge
Posted March 20, 2010, by Brad Smith (bwana39 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I took these pictures in October of 2009. Retrofit was well underway. They were taken from Yeba Buena and Treasure Islands.