This extremely long bridge is less famous than some of the bridges in the Bay Area, but this is somewhat unfair and does not reflect how impressive this historic bridge truly is. Although it is relatively young with a 1956 construction date, it was still built with all the details that make earlier bridges significant and so much different from modern bridges. These details include the use of rivets as well as a majority of being being built-up in nature, and most of those built-up beams using lattice and battens (as opposed to plate with punched holes like many post 1950 riveted bridges). As such, the bridge looks older than it is, and despite its age, it accurately conveys the construction techniques of the first half of the 20th Century that all quickly died out in the second half of the 20th Century. Overall, the bridge is noteworthy for its length, variety of span types, and double-deck configuration. The bridge starts out as a single deck at each end, with the westbound lanes quickly elevating and moving over to run above the eastbound lanes. Three span types on the bridge are most noteworthy. At the ends of the bridge, deck plate girder spans can be found. After these spans, and in between the two main span segments, deck truss spans are present. Finally, the main spans are cantilever through truss spans, unusual because there are two cantilever truss sections separated by a series of deck truss spans. The cantilever sections define two navigation channels under the bridge. The intermediate deck truss spans between the cantilever spans have an unusual appearance because they do not maintain the high elevation of the channel spans, so the bridge has a sagging appearance at the ends. The overall bridge also has a broad and shallow curve at the western half of the bridge, and unusual photo opportunities can be had as a result of this curving. The main photo on this page is a good example, and more examples are in the photo gallery page.
The construction of the bridge was noteworthy because aluminum falsework was used to help erect the bridge. The aluminum falsework looked a lot like the actual steel truss spans of the bridge, and were composed of built-up beams.
The bridge has had seismic retrofits, but the overall truss retains good historic integrity with rivets and original materials retained on the bridge. The same cannot be said for the more famous Bay Area bridges.
Francis J. Murphy, pictured on this page, worked for the Judson Pacific-Murphy Company and was the Superstructure Project Manager for the San Rafael Bridge.
This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Double-Deck
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