Local and federal leaders gathered Monday in front of San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge to celebrate the $400 million the bridge has received to strengthen its resilience against disasters.
The funding, secured at the end of 2022, will help retrofit the bridge's main suspension and better equip it against earthquakes.
The initiative comes as part of the Biden administration's historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which is the largest investment in U.S. bridges since the creation of the Interstate Highway System in 1956.
Bay Area leaders had urged the Department of Transportation in May to help strengthen the Golden Gate after the Federal Highway Administration found it would fall into poor condition within the next three years.
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of four bridges selected in the first round of funding, and all were selected based on their overall cultural significance and contributions to regional and national economies. The grant funding builds upon the billions of federal dollars states have already received to fix up thousands of bridges.
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"At 85 years young, the bridge remains an important symbol of our community," said Denis Mulligan, general manager of the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District. "We are thrilled and grateful for this historic investment that will ensure that the Golden Gate Bridge stands stronger than ever."
San Francisco Mayor and former bridge board member London Breed said the span is more than just a photo op for tourists, citing the 39 million cars, 2.3 million pedestrians and 800,000 freight trucks that traverse it each year.
"It's a bridge that takes a lot of work and takes a lot of hands to ensure that it is not only the asset that it needs to be for us now, but the asset and beauty that it needs to be for future generations to come," Breed said.
Rudy Gonzales, head of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, said there is an entire group of skilled hands dedicated to keeping the Golden Gate Bridge an "iconic treasure" for the community, and they also deserve to be recognized. He added that this grant funding serves as a "symbol of confidence" that the top leaders of this nation are looking out for San Francisco's economic recovery.
Grim projections come as Bay Area train, bus and ferry systems struggle to recover from massive ridership declines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The money that will be infused into this district will go to creating good jobs for our strong economic recovery, and it will ensure that like the bridge, our city will stand the test of time," Gonzales said.
Mitch Landrieu, senior adviser to the president and White House infrastructure coordinator, said that strong national security and economic security cannot happen without strong infrastructure. He said investments in bridges ensure that people can continue to travel safely, even in times of natural disasters, and builds up the construction work force.
"Right now we are rebuilding the country from the bottom up. And a part of that, of course, is all the roads, the public transportation and the bridges that we all ride on," said Landrieu.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg referred to the Golden Gate Bridge as "one of the cathedrals of American infrastructure," serving as not only an iconic landmark in the Bay Area, but of the entire country. It also has an indispensable responsibility of allowing safe transport to and from San Francisco, and is an essential link for supply chains based in the Port of Oakland.
"Its symbolic power is interwoven with its very real concrete capacity to help deliver prosperity to those who count on it. We also know that without improvements in structural elements, it would become more vulnerable each passing year," Buttigieg said. "So I think it's fitting that it is in this very first round of our Bridge Investment Program, which is one of the flagship programs of President Biden's historic five-year infrastructure package."
He added that California's historic winter storm series in early January, though differing from the seismic threat the bridge faces, is a reminder that resilient infrastructure needs to be a priority to withstand a changing climate in this country.
"We are literally building the future of this country together and we're just getting started," Buttigieg said.