6 Bridges You'll Want to Cross

Vasco de Gama Bridge Across the River Tagus in Portugal
Vasco de Gama Bridge Across the River Tagus in Portugal. Photo by Chris Hellier / Corbis Historical / Getty Images
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Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California

Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California
World's Great Bridges: Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California. Photo by Alan Majchrowicz/The Image Bank Collection/Getty Images

Completed in 1932, Bixby Bridge is one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges in the world. Also called Bixby Creek Bridge, it is named after early settler Charles Henry Bixby. The picturesque concrete arch bridge is often filmed and photographed.

Type: Single span concrete arch
Height: 260 feet
Length: 714 feet
Width: 24 feet

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Celebrate the Brooklyn Bridge Like It's May 24, 1883

Pedestrian Level of the Brooklyn Bridge, New York City, pedestrian point of view
World's Great Bridges: Brooklyn Bridge Pedestrian Level of the Brooklyn Bridge, New York City. Photo by Fraser Hall/Photographer's Choice RF Collection/Getty Images

Constructed between 1870 and 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River in New York City was an impressive feat of engineering marred by tragedy.

The bridge between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. German-born John A. Roebling had designed important suspension bridges in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas, but none in NY. By 1850, Roebling held several patents for wire cable-roping and had established John A. Roebling's Sons Company near Trenton, New Jersey.

In June 1869, while surveying the East River site, Roebling accidentally crushed some of his toes. What seemed to be a typical accident of the day turned mortal when a month later John Roebling died of tetanus. Washington Roebling, John's son, completed the design and oversaw the groundbreaking for the Brooklyn tower in January 1870. The two towers had to be completed before the wires could be strung — the Brooklyn side was completed in June 1875 and the New York tower was finished in July 1876. Washington Roebling supervised the engineering, but became too ill to complete the project. Over a decade after it began, the Brooklyn Bridge was completed by Washington Roebling's wife, Emily Warren Roebling.

Construction Began: January 3, 1870
Opened: May 24, 1883
Type: Suspension bridge with cable-stays
Length: 1,825 meters / 5,989 feet
Cables: 4 cables, each 15 3/4 inches in diameter; each cable is made up of 5,434 wires
Designer: John Augustus Roebling
Engineer: Washington Roebling, and then Washington's wife, Emily Warren Roebling

A Famous Foot Bridge

The new bridge had been designed for horse-drawn carriages and foot traffic. A week after the Bridge opened in 1883, thousands of pedestrians visited the structure that they had heard stories about for years. Fired by a rumor that the bridge was about to collapse, the crowd panicked, which stirred a stampede that killed 12 and injured 35 people.

A more positive experience happened in 2001. The Brooklyn Bridge is not far from the where the World Trade Center Twin Towers once stood. Thousands of people walked to safety over this bridge to escape the carnage in Lower Manhattan on September 11.

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Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California

Red-colored suspension bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California
World's Great Bridges: Golden Gate Bridge The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. Photo by George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The Golden Gate Bridge was the world's longest suspension bridge when it was constructed in the 1930s. In spite of its name, the famous bridge in San Francisco is not golden in color, nor is it named after the California Gold Rush. The bridge spans a body of water called Chrysopylae, which is Greek for "Golden Gate."

Designed by noted engineer and bridge-builder Joseph B. Strauss, San Francisco's bridge was constructed between 1933 and 1937 — officially opening on May 27, 1937. For 25-cents on that day, anyone could walk the length of this remarkable bridge and see firsthand why it's called a suspension bridge. Opening day was Pedestrian Day, when an estimated 15,000 paid to walk the length of the brand new bridge.

Type: Suspension bridge
Total Length: 1.7 miles (8,981 feet or 2,737 m)
Center Span: 4,200 feet (1,280 m)
Width: 90 feet (27 m)
Height From Water: 220 feet (67 m)
Engineering: Two main cables (36-3/8 inch diameter; 0.92 meter) atop two 746-foot tall towers

How Did They Make the Main Cables?

452 steel wires were spun together, twisted, to make a bundle. Then, 61 bundles were spun together to make each main cable.

Construction Team

  • Joseph Baermann Strauss (b. 1870), Chief Engineer, instituted new safety measures in construction, including protective netting to catch falling workers and an early version of the hard hat.
  • Charles Alton Ellis (b. 1876), structural engineer and designer who had worked on subway tunnels in NYC, was instrumental in designing the bridge.
  • Leon S. Moisseiff (b. 1872), who served on Strauss' Advisory Board of Engineers, had designed the Manhattan Bridge in NYC using deflection theory. Moisseiff was instrumental in mathematically calculating what was needed to keep a new bridge standing amidst the San Francisco winds, ocean currents, and California earthquakes.
  • John Roebling and Sons, creators of the Brooklyn Bridge (1883), oversaw the cable construction (spinning).

In addition to Strauss Engineering Corporation staff, a number of traffic engineers, consulting architects, and geologists helped complete the Golden Gate Bridge.


January 5, 1933 - construction started
November 1934 - first 745-foot tower completed
June 1935 - second tower on San Francisco side completed
May 1936 - cable spinning (creating large cables from many small cables) completed for two main cables
June 1936 - suspending roadway deck from the cables began
April 1937 - roadway paving completed
May 27, 1937 - open to pedestrians
May 28, 1937 - open to traffic

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Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal

Cable-stayed bridge ten miles long with sun reflecting in the water
Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images (cropped)

With its viaducts, Vasco da Gama Bridge is the longest bridge in Europe. The Vasco da Gama Bridge spans the Tagus River near Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. The bridge was designed by Armando Rito and opened in 1998.

Type: Cable-stayed
Length: 10.7 miles (17.2 km), including viaducts and access roads

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Alamillo Bridge in Seville, Andalusia (Spain)

The Alamillo Bridge in Seville, Andalusia (Spain). Santiago Calatrava, architect.
World's Great Bridges: Puente del Alamillo by Santiago Calatrava The Alamillo Bridge in Seville, Andalusia (Spain). Santiago Calatrava, architect. Photo © Vision/Cordelli / Getty Images

Architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava designed the Alamillo Bridge for the 1992 Expo on La Cartuja Island in Seville, Spain.

Four new bridges were constructed for the 1992 Expo (World's Fair) in Seville, Spain. Alamillo Bridge, or Puente del Alamillo, is one of two bridges that Santiago Calatrava designed. Alamillo Bridge crosses the Guadalquivir River, connecting the old quarter of Seville with La Cartuja Island. Construction on the bridge began in 1989 and was completed in 1992.

Type: Cantilever spar cable-stayed. The deck is secured by a single, cabled pylon angled at 58 degrees.
Span: 200 meters

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Millau Viaduct in Southern France

Norman Foster-designed cable stay bridge, Millau Viaduct, in Southern France
Millau Viaduct in Southern France. Photo by JACQUES Pierre/hemis.fr Collection/getty Images (cropped)

When completed, the Millau Viaduct, taller than the Eiffel Tower, had the highest bridge pylons in the world and the highest road deck in Europe.

Opened: 2004
Type: Cable stayed bridge
Total Length: 1.5 miles (2460 meters; 2.46 kilometers) of the A75
Piers and Stays: 7 piers each with 11 pairs of stays (154 total stays)
Spans Lengths: The six spans between the seven piers are each 1,122 feet (342 meters); the two end spans are each 669 feet (204 meters)
Width: 105 feet (32 meters)
Maximum Height: 1,125 feet (343 meters)
Designer: Norman Foster