The Lesser Spans – San Mateo Bridge

October 4, 2015 | By | Reply More

SMBAfter the finishing of the Benicia-Martinez-Bridge, two years later the San Francisco Bay was spanned again, this time by a low-level drawbridge at the midpoint of the lower bay near San Mateo.

With a total length of twelve miles, seven of them over water, the San Mateo Bridge was the longest highway bridge in the world at the time of its completion.

The original bridge, known as the San Francisco Bay toll bridge, opened on 2 March 1929 after approximately a year of construction.

It was a privately owned venture and was then the longest bridge in the world. The original bridge was mostly a two-lane causeway trestle with five 300-foot truss spans in the center incorporating a vertical lift over the main shipping channel.

Big Game day held no terrors for its attendants; profiting by the experience of the operators of the Dumbarton Bridge, its builders allowed a thirty-five-foot clearance for the passage of small boats without raising the span.

In another respect however, California-Stanford rivalry was responsible for a memorable episode in the bridge’s history.

One day in 1930 a group of daring Stanford undergraduates recaptured the historic Stanford Axe at a University of California rally in Berkeley and headed down the east shore in a fast car, pursued by hordes of U.C. students.

According to legend, they were able to make their getaway to Palo Alto because the attendant of the San Mateo Bridge, a Stanford man, raised the lift span in time to halt the Berkeley pursuers.

Although the initial press was favorable, daily traffic fell from the opening months and never exceeded 2,000 cars per day until 1947. The State of California purchased the bridge on 12 September 1951 for $6,000,000.

By 1955, traffic exceeded 9,000 cars per day, and in 1957, traffic was stopped an average of six times per day to allow ship traffic to pass the bridge

With increased road and marine traffic, a bill was introduced in 1961 by State Senator Richard J. Dolwig to fund a new fixed high-level bridge to replace the 1929 lift-bridge. The modern span, which began construction on 17 July 1961, opened for traffic in 1967.

The originally designed upgrade would retain the existing lift span (along with the attendant delays due to passing ship traffic), adding a second deck to the truss spans and widening the existing trestles to four lanes, but the California Toll Bridge Authority replaced the existing lift span with a fixed high-level double-deck span

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Category: Fog City - City of Fog, San Francisco Bay

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