The Bay Bridge connecting the East Bay Area to San Francisco was completed in 1937 and stands today as one of San Francisco’s most recognized landmarks. Proposals to span a bridge to connect the City to the east shores of the bay go back as far as 1951, when William Walker lobbied for a pontoon bridge. Many more plans were put forth over time but none were given serious attention until the 1920s. The reason for the long delay, other than the primitive bridge building technology, was that the need was just not there. The advent of the personal motor vehicle in the 1920s is what really spearheaded the need for bridge-building. The Bay Bridge employs a combination of multiple bridge building techniques. From the Alameda shore to Yerba Buena Island, the bridge is a traditional cantilever-truss structure. From the island to San Francisco it is a suspension bridge due to the deeper water. The design and construction was controlled by Charles H. Purcell, the State Highway Engineer for the California Division of Highways.
The X-bracing of the suspension towers provide a traditional look. The best way to enjoy this bridge is to drive across it going west on the upper deck, especially late at night when traffic is low and the string of lights are on and San Francisco is illuminated and simply thrilling.
The most amazing thing about the Bay Bridge is that it was constructed, along with the Golden Gate and the Carquinez Strait Bridges, when the country was in the midst of the Great Depression. The completion of the bridges gave the Bay Area a much needed financial and emotional boost.
Sources: Mikesell, Stephen. Historic Highway Bridges of California. California Department of Transportation, 1990.
Richards, Rand. Historic San Francisco: A Concise History and Guide. Heritage House Publishers: San Francisco, 1999.