Richmond-San Rafel Bridge



The Richmond–San Rafael Bridge (also officially named the John F. McCarthy Memorial Bridge) is the northernmost of the east–west crossings of the San Francisco Bay in California, USA. Officially named after California State Senator John F. McCarthy, it bridges Interstate 580 from Richmond on the east to San Rafael on the west. It opened in 1956, replacing ferry service by the Richmond–San Rafael Ferry Company. At the time it was built, it was one of the world's longest bridges. The bridge spans two ship channels and has two separate main cantilever spans. Both main cantilever spans are raised to allow ship traffic to pass, and in between, there is a "dip" in the elevation of the center section, giving the bridge a vertical undulation or "roller coaster" appearance and also the nickname "roller coaster span". To save money, the cantilever main spans share identical symmetric designs, so the "uphill" grade on the approach required for the elevated span is duplicated on the other "downhill" side, resulting in a depressed center truss section. In addition, because the navigation channels are not parallel to each other, the bridge also does not follow a straight line. This appearance has also been referred to as a "bent coat hanger".

After it was completed, many were disappointed by the aesthetics of the low budget bridge, including Frank Lloyd Wright, who reportedly called for its destruction. The neighboring Golden Gate Bridge and the western span of Bay Bridge were considered engineering and historical marvels, and the Richmond–San Rafael Bridge was not considered to be in the same class. However, the senior engineers for the Richmond–San Rafael Bridge were the same engineers that worked on the Bay Bridge and the resulting design echoed the lessons learned from the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.