Urban Fold

Gov. Brown Points To Similarities In Golden Gate Bridge, HSR, And Water Project

Joseph Strauss' dream of spanning the Golden Gate is remarkably similar to Gov. Jerry Brown's of spanning the Golden State with high speed rail, and providing fresh water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Public opposition is the common link.

Kicking off the 75th anniversary of the opening of the state's iconic bridge, Gov. Jerry Brown (and other dignitaries) spoke to the thousands that gathered. Brown noted that his father served as a member of the Bridge Authority and his older sister walked across it on opening day in 1937.

He used the event as an opportunity to "champion two proposals now facing criticism -- a $68 billion high-speed rail system and a $13 billion tunnel system to route fresh water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta."

"He said the bridge was built in the 1930s during a time of high unemployment and in the face of much skepticism. But it proved to be an important asset to future generations, much as the proposed rail and water systems could be, he said.

"So don't tell me about how much it's going to cost this year, think about how much will it give us over the next 100 years," Brown said.

In an earlier San Francisco Chronicle column, John King described the uphill battle faced by chief engineer and advocate, Joseph Strauss:

"Critics depicted the bridge as financially unsound, legally dubious, an aesthetic blight and an engineering hazard in the decade before the start of construction in 1933. The battle was most fierce in the fall of 1930, when voters in six counties were asked to allow $35 million in bond sales for construction."

Writing in California Progress Report, high speed rail blogger Robert Cruickshank expressed some of the wide skepticism toward construction of the bridge.

"Although the automobile had become a mass form of transportation by 1930, many people still didn't accept that it would become the dominant method of travel. Looking back on a past they knew well, an era where ferry boats and trains moved people around the region, the bridge's opponents were convinced that the new era promised by project supporters was nothing more than a delusional and risky fantasy."

Full Story: Brown: Golden Gate Bridge a model for thinking big

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Irvin Dawid's picture
Correspondent

Ray LaHood also compares Golden Gate Bridge to HSR

In his Fast Lane Blog, the U.S. Transportation Secretary uses the 75'th anniversary of the bridge's opening as an opportunity to offer "lessons for high-speed rail". LaHood also refers to the May 13 article by San Francisco Chronicle urban design critic, John King, to describe the "fierce opposition" that chief bridge engineer and advocate, Joseph Strauss encountered by numerous bridge critics, not unlike the formidable critics facing California's high speed rail project today.

LaHood also refers to President Eisenhower's "ambitious project to build America's interstate highway system" as another great transportation infrastructure project designed primarily for motorized vehicles as symbols of "American vision, engineering, and workmanship."

Turning attention to 21st century transportation infrastructure, he acknowledges that "there are critics and naysayers opposed to this important project. And the California High Speed Rail Authority is doing the right thing by listening to them and working to address their concerns. But we won’t let them stand in the way of a 21st century solution....."
[Thanks to Len Conly/Sierra Club for passing on this article originally caught by Kevin Brubaker of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.]

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