Financial History 139 (Fall 2021) - Page 20

new interest in building bridges over the San Francisco Bay . In 1921 , the War Department held public hearings on more than a dozen proposals for a bridge from San Francisco to Oakland . Officials made it clear they were not enthusiastic about a bridge that could impair commercial shipping or military activities . In 1927 , the San Francisco Board of Supervisors organized the Ridgeway Commission to examine the potential location and design of a transbay bridge to the east . Its report not only established the feasibility of such a structure but suggested the most appropriate location and the most practical designs .
In 1929 , President ( and sometime Palo Alto resident ) Herbert Hoover and California Governor Clement Young established an eponymous commission to explore how their governments could help move the project along . While the commission was meeting , the State of California created the California Toll Bridge Authority and adopted the proposed Bay Bridge as a state-owned and financed structure . At the same time , the Army and Navy each modified their objections to the potential structure ’ s design and location . The commission ’ s August 1930 report reviewed all previous examinations of engineering , geologic , political , military and financial issues . It analyzed the traffic flow , boring and foundation data , design options and potential costs of five alternative routes . It recommended one with an estimated cost of $ 72 million ; that route would start in the Rincon Hill neighborhood of San Francisco , connect to Goat Island and then continue to Oakland . In most aspects , the bridge was quite similar to the one suggested by the Ridgeway Commission .
According to the 1929 Toll Bridge Authority legislation , the state ’ s Department of Public Works was empowered to issue revenue bonds to finance the bridge . But as was the case for the Golden Gate , poor economic conditions made it difficult to market the $ 72 million bond issue deemed necessary to finance this multi-part and unusually long structure . In October 1932 , and much to the chagrin of officials of the Golden Gate Bridge District , the RFC loaned the Bay Bridge Authority $ 61 million of the requested $ 72 million . ( It would later provide another $ 10 million for the interurban railway and trolley lines on the bridge .) President Hoover ’ s influence proved crucial . So too
Top — Bird ’ s eye view of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge , circa 1936 . Bottom — The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge under construction , 1934 .
did the argument that the Bay Bridge would directly benefit the Oakland / Alameda population of 474,000 , as compared to the Golden Gate directly benefitting Marin County ’ s population of 42,000 . RFC officials also deemed the Golden Gate ’ s general obligation bonds ( backed by the taxing power of the counties in the Bridge District ) to be more marketable than the Bay Bridge ’ s revenue bonds ( backed only by bridge tolls ). Thus , they directed their limited funds to the Bay Bridge .
Building A Second Multi-Million Structure
The Bay Bridge ’ s gestation period was only four years , less than half the Golden Gate ’ s . Its construction period was also shorter — 41 months compared to the Golden Gate ’ s 52 months . Beginning in July 1933 , more than 6,000 men worked simultaneously on its three separate parts . Each of those projects required engineers and construction crews to develop new building techniques :
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