A Note on the Bixby Bridge

 

Here in California, as Victor Davis Hanson argues, the great figures of business and political life once envisioned grand works—and built them. In the nineteenth century, the railroad up over the Sierras to create the western end of the transcontinental railroad. In the early twentieth century, the reservoirs and lakes to generate power—the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Huntington Lake, many others. In the middle of the last century, the canals, tunnels and pipelines that carry water from the Sierras through the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys to Los Angeles.

Which brings me to the Bixby Bridge.

A few days ago my wife and I drove south from Carmel along the Pacific Coast Highway, crossing the Bixby Bridge. The structure isn’t merely beautiful. It’s thrilling. The central span soars to 280 feet, a height that once made the structure the tallest single-span bridge in the world. When engineers designed the bridge, I learned when I did some reading afterwards, they debated whether to build a smaller structure farther inland, deciding instead to build the present structure, which is located on on the very edge of the Pacific, in part for the sheer challenge of the thing. Construction began in August 1931, ended in October 1932, and cost just under $200,000—something under $5 million in today’s money.

Ponder that. In just 15 months and at an expense of less than two hundred grand the Californians of ninety years ago produced one of the most compelling structures in the world.

Elon Musk wants us to go to Mars, and that’d be fine with me, as long as it’s Elon’s money. But wouldn’t it be splendid—really splendid—to build right here on earth? To create enduring monuments of usefulness and beauty? How can we recapture the spirit of the Bixby Bridge?

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  1. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    That sort of construction is the sign of a young, healthy civilization.  That’s not who we are anymore.  In our dotage, we do bureaucratic sclerosis and decadence.

    • #1
  2. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    That sort of construction is the sign of a young, healthy civilization. That’s not who we are anymore. In our dotage, we do bureaucratic sclerosis and decadence.

    Yeah, you don’t support self-esteem for porn addicts by building bridges.  Get with the century, Peter Robinson.

    • #2
  3. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Peter Robinson: A Note on the Bixby Bridge

    But just don’t make it mad.

    You wouldn’t like it when it’s mad.

    • #3
  4. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Peter Robinson: A Note on the Bixby Bridge

    But just don’t make it mad.

    You wouldn’t like it when it’s mad.

    Good one!  It took me a few moments to remember the reference.

    • #4
  5. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Peter Robinson: A Note on the Bixby Bridge

    But just don’t make it mad.

    You wouldn’t like it when it’s mad.

    Good one! It took me a few moments to remember the reference.

    I clicked “like” anyway, but I think I just figured it out.

    • #5
  6. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    That sort of construction is the sign of a young, healthy civilization. That’s not who we are anymore. In our dotage, we do bureaucratic sclerosis and decadence.

    We’re Vogons?  But they still make hyperspace bypasses, so that puts them ahead of us.

    • #6
  7. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @BobW

    On our way to work this morning we decided to take a short detour and drove down to the Bixby Bridge.  Interesting that this was posted the same day.  Was a little foggy this AM which made it a little dramatic.

    This bridge is used in tons of car commercials, a few years ago someone from a film crew saw my car and  wanted to use it as a second car.  They would use the car and their driver but I would be there during the shoot. But it turned out my car was the same color as the subject car and they decided not to use it.  It would have been interesting to watch.

    • #7
  8. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Bob W (View Comment):

    On our way to work this morning we decided to take a short detour and drove down to the Bixby Bridge. Interesting that this was posted the same day. Was a little foggy this AM which made it a little dramatic.

    This bridge is used in tons of car commercials, a few years ago someone from a film crew saw my car and wanted to use it as a second car. They would use the car and their driver but I would be there during the shoot. But it turned out my car was the same color as the subject car and they decided not to use it. It would have been interesting to watch.

    So I understand this correctly?  They wanted to use your car as the lame, undesirable car that is easily passed by the hot, new, much better car from the commercial?

    • #8
  9. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @BobW

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Bob W (View Comment):

    On our way to work this morning we decided to take a short detour and drove down to the Bixby Bridge. Interesting that this was posted the same day. Was a little foggy this AM which made it a little dramatic.

    This bridge is used in tons of car commercials, a few years ago someone from a film crew saw my car and wanted to use it as a second car. They would use the car and their driver but I would be there during the shoot. But it turned out my car was the same color as the subject car and they decided not to use it. It would have been interesting to watch.

    So I understand this correctly? They wanted to use your car as the lame, undesirable car that is easier passed by the hot, new, much better car from the commercial?

    Yep, that was the plan.

    • #9
  10. Jack Yates Member
    Jack Yates
    @JackYates

    Peter Robinson:

    Here in California, as Victor Davis Hanson argues, the great figures of business and political life once envisioned grand works—and built them. In the nineteenth century, the railroad up over the Sierras to create the western end of the transcontinental railroad. In the early twentieth century, the reservoirs and lakes to generate power—the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Huntington Lake, many others. In the middle of the last century, the canals, tunnels and pipelines that carry water from the Sierras through the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys to Los Angeles.

    Which brings me to the Bixby Bridge.

    A few days ago my wife and I drove south from Carmel along the Pacific Coast Highway, crossing the Bixby Bridge. The structure isn’t merely beautiful. It’s thrilling. The central span soars to 280 feet, a height that once made the structure the tallest single-span bridge in the world. When engineers designed the bridge, I learned when I did some reading afterwards, they debated whether to build a smaller structure farther inland, deciding instead to build the present structure, which is located on on the very edge of the Pacific, in part for the sheer challenge of the thing. Construction began in August 1931, ended in October 1932, and cost just under $200,000—something under $5 million in today’s money.

    Ponder that. In just 15 months and at an expense of less than two hundred grand the Californians of ninety years ago produced one of the most compelling structures in the world.

    Elon Musk wants us to go to Mars, and that’d be fine with me, as long as it’s Elon’s money. But wouldn’t it be splendid—really splendid—to build right here on earth? To create enduring monuments of usefulness and beauty? How can we recapture the spirit of the Bixby Bridge?

     

    • #10
  11. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    No EPA back then.  Environmental impact studies alone take five years and millions of dollars.

    • #11
  12. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Today I don’t think highway departments can build a mile of highway on flat otherwise unoccupied ground in 15 months for 5 million dollars. 

    • #12
  13. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Just ran into an interesting post about big things, done quickly, with some links as to why things typically now take so much longer.

    Probably the best recent example of a very important project done fast is the Covid-19 vaccine development and production.

     

     

     

    • #13
  14. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Today I don’t think highway departments can build a mile of highway on flat otherwise unoccupied ground in 15 months for 5 million dollars.

    A few years ago, sixty-four miles of paved roads in our township got resurfaced for a little over 2 million. Actually, some of those  roads were in good enough shape not to need the resurfacing, but the great majority of them did.  And that amount of money may not have included the 30 percent that the county paid for its share.  Most of us figured it was a good deal, possible only because the county highway department (which did the work) had gotten a huge house cleaning.   

    • #14
  15. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Today I don’t think highway departments can build a mile of highway on flat otherwise unoccupied ground in 15 months for 5 million dollars.

    For that bridge, a billion dollars.

    • #15
  16. Dwayne Padgett Member
    Dwayne Padgett
    @DwaynePadgett

    My Fatherinlaw taught at the Naval Postgraduate School.  He talked a Student into helping him scout out sights on the coast by air.  The Pilot chose to fly under the Bixby Bridge to explore that canyon.  Talk about thrilling memories!  

    • #16
  17. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    I have crossed over the Turtle Creek valley on the catwalk under the deck of the George Westinghouse Bridge in East Pittsburgh and can identify with the awesome size of the Bixby structure. The Westinghouse bridge is also a concrete arch, built during the same era and similar in height at 240 feet above the valley floor. The entire structure is twice as long and twice as wide in cross section as the Bixby Bridge, and cost about $1.8 million originally. The scenery is Western Pennsylvania industrial, but it’s still a pretty impressive view. It is a reminder of the days when Pittsburgh could claim the title of  “Workshop of the World” with some credibility.

    • #17
  18. Cosmik Phred Member
    Cosmik Phred
    @CosmikPhred

    I can’t remember who said it, but some commentator observed that Jerry Brown spent all of his – MANY – terms as governor essentially disavowing and undoing the “sins” of his father.  

    You know, all those things that made California, as we know it, possible. 

    Once, your state loses its dynamism it is lost.

    • #18
  19. Peter Robinson Contributor
    Peter Robinson
    @PeterRobinson

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    No EPA back then. Environmental impact studies alone take five years and millions of dollars.

    Exactly.

    • #19
  20. Peter Robinson Contributor
    Peter Robinson
    @PeterRobinson

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    Today I don’t think highway departments can build a mile of highway on flat otherwise unoccupied ground in 15 months for 5 million dollars.

    Too darned true.

    • #20
  21. Peter Robinson Contributor
    Peter Robinson
    @PeterRobinson

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Just ran into an interesting post about big things, done quickly, with some links as to why things typically now take so much longer.

    Probably the best recent example of a very important project done fast is the Covid-19 vaccine development and production.

     

    A good–and cheering–point. The vaccines prove that, although it may take a crisis to force us into action, Americans are still very capable of doing big, important things without delay. Thanks!

     

     

    • #21
  22. Peter Robinson Contributor
    Peter Robinson
    @PeterRobinson

    Dwayne Padgett (View Comment):

    My Fatherinlaw taught at the Naval Postgraduate School. He talked a Student into helping him scout out sights on the coast by air. The Pilot chose to fly under the Bixby Bridge to explore that canyon. Talk about thrilling memories!

    I’d have given a lot to be in that plane!

    • #22
  23. Codename: Bunsen Honeydew Coolidge
    Codename: Bunsen Honeydew
    @ltpwfdcm

    I took my wife and son out to the Bay Area at the end of March for Spring Break. One of the items on the list was to see the Bixby Bridge. Truly an amazing feat, especially engineering it on the curve.

    p.s. I also had to sneak on to Stanford’s campus to take a few pictures…

    Just a few more reminders of an era of grand works…

    • #23
  24. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Codename: Bunsen Honeydew (View Comment):

     

     

     

    Aha, I knew it!  The Ivory Tower!

    • #24
  25. JimGoneWild Coolidge
    JimGoneWild
    @JimGoneWild

    By contrast, the Galena bridge, just south of Reno, took about 9 years build including 5 year halt. The halt was due to the contractor and county — poor planning.  It’s 295 feet tall and with a 689 foot span. I watched it being built over the years, living only 1.5 miles from it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galena_Creek_Bridge

     

    https://www.google.com/search?q=galena+bridge,+reno,+nv+images&safe=active&rlz=1C1GCEU_enUS952US952&sxsrf=ALeKk02Qx687hsDoqc1hH7d4DFcQZ0J-UQ:1620333187690&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=FmTulbwt6sSvGM%252CigvQUiJgpRTcLM%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kSDIsFMaPHw57Y59NsO9XDjKWvUrw&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjD_cbA87XwAhWCiOAKHaJaD9YQ9QF6BAgPEAE#imgrc=FmTulbwt6sSvGM

     

     

    • #25
  26. JimGoneWild Coolidge
    JimGoneWild
    @JimGoneWild

    JimGoneWild (View Comment):

    By contrast, the Galena bridge, just south of Reno, took about 9 years build including 5 year halt. The halt was due to the contractor and county — poor planning. It’s 295 feet tall and with a 689 foot span. I watched it being built over the years, living only 1.5 miles from it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galena_Creek_Bridge

    https://www.google.com/search?q=galena+bridge,+reno,+nv+images&safe=active&rlz=1C1GCEU_enUS952US952&sxsrf=ALeKk02Qx687hsDoqc1hH7d4DFcQZ0J-UQ:1620333187690&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=FmTulbwt6sSvGM%252CigvQUiJgpRTcLM%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kSDIsFMaPHw57Y59NsO9XDjKWvUrw&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjD_cbA87XwAhWCiOAKHaJaD9YQ9QF6BAgPEAE#imgrc=FmTulbwt6sSvGM

    What is interesting about this bridge is the span arches were “cast”. Really. The built a large, earthen mound and formed a cast on top of it, then removed the mound. It worked!

    • #26
  27. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    JimGoneWild (View Comment):

    JimGoneWild (View Comment):

    By contrast, the Galena bridge, just south of Reno, took about 9 years build including 5 year halt. The halt was due to the contractor and county — poor planning. It’s 295 feet tall and with a 689 foot span. I watched it being built over the years, living only 1.5 miles from it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galena_Creek_Bridge

    https://www.google.com/search?q=galena+bridge,+reno,+nv+images&safe=active&rlz=1C1GCEU_enUS952US952&sxsrf=ALeKk02Qx687hsDoqc1hH7d4DFcQZ0J-UQ:1620333187690&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=FmTulbwt6sSvGM%252CigvQUiJgpRTcLM%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kSDIsFMaPHw57Y59NsO9XDjKWvUrw&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjD_cbA87XwAhWCiOAKHaJaD9YQ9QF6BAgPEAE#imgrc=FmTulbwt6sSvGM

    What is interesting about this bridge is the span arches were “cast”. Really. The built a large, earthen mound and formed a cast on top of it, then removed the mound. It worked!

    Sounds like the kind of thing I would think of.  :-)

    • #27
  28. JimGoneWild Coolidge
    JimGoneWild
    @JimGoneWild

    kedavis (View Comment):
    Sounds like the kind of thing I would think of.  :-)

    Me too. They could not have done this with the Bixby bridge I would guess. From the looks of the photo there would be no practical way of temporarily filling in the ravine. 

    • #28
  29. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

     How can we recapture the spirit of the Bixby Bridge?

    Don’t put Socialists into our White House.

     

    Go to 21:50

    • #29