Golden Gate Turns 75 in Shadow of Near-Collapse

300K people packed bridge on 50th, but engineers not worried

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted May 27, 2012 10:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – Twenty-five years ago, 300,000 people swarmed San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge to celebrate the landmark's 50th anniversary. Urban legend has long held there were so many people on the bridge that day, it nearly collapsed. "Then it got kind of scary, because we realized we were trapped," says a local resident who was on the bridge that day. "We were standing there, and then I said to my friend, 'Dude, this bridge is moving.' " But although it did sag some 7 feet from the incredible weight, there actually was little danger of the bridge collapsing, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

"It was probably the biggest load the bridge had ever seen," said an engineer. "But it did not exceed the design load capacity of the bridge." The Golden Gate Bridge is designed to handle about 5,700 pounds per foot; people blanketing the bridge can add up to around 5,400 pounds per foot, but engineers say they typically over-engineer to allow for 150% of the maximum. Today is the 75th anniversary of the iconic bridge, and, despite all the engineer assurances, this time city officials are not permitting pedestrians to swarm it again. "It's just not wise, " says the district chief engineer.

In this May 24, 1987 file photo, a crowd estimated at several hundred thousand jams the deck of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco during a walk to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the bridge.
In this May 24, 1987 file photo, a crowd estimated at several hundred thousand jams the deck of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco during a walk to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the bridge.   (AP Photo/Doug Atkins, File)
In this May 27, 1937 file photo, military biplanes fly between the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge as pedestrians walk across the span during opening ceremonies in San Francisco.
In this May 27, 1937 file photo, military biplanes fly between the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge as pedestrians walk across the span during opening ceremonies in San Francisco.   (AP Photo, File)
In this photo taken March 9, 2012 the Golden Gate Bridge is shown at Fort Point in San Francisco.
In this photo taken March 9, 2012 the Golden Gate Bridge is shown at Fort Point in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
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