San Diego–Coronado Bridge

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San Diego–Coronado Bridge
San Diego Coronado bridge01.JPEG
Carries 5 lanes of SR 75
Crosses San Diego Bay
Locale San Diego and Coronado, California
Maintained by Caltrans
Design Prestressed concrete/steel bridge
Total length 11,179 feet (3,407 m) or 2.1 miles (3.4 km)
Longest span 660 feet (200 m)
Clearance below 200 feet (61 m)
Construction cost $48 million USD[1]
Opened August 3, 1969
Coordinates 32°41′11″N 117°09′30″W / 32.6865°N 117.1583°W / 32.6865; -117.1583Coordinates: 32°41′11″N 117°09′30″W / 32.6865°N 117.1583°W / 32.6865; -117.1583

The San Diego–Coronado Bridge, locally referred to as the Coronado Bridge, is a "prestressed concrete/steel" girder bridge, crossing over San Diego Bay in the United States, linking San Diego with Coronado, California.[2] The bridge is signed as part of State Route 75.



In 1926, John D. Spreckels recommended that a bridge be built between San Diego and Coronado, but voters dismissed the plan.[3] The U.S. Navy initially did not support a bridge that would span San Diego Bay to connect San Diego to Coronado. They feared a bridge could be collapsed by attack or an earthquake and trap the ships stationed at Naval Base San Diego.[1] In 1935, an officer at the naval air station at North Island argued that if a bridge was built to cross the bay then the Navy would leave San Diego.[1]

In 1951-52, the Coronado City Council initiated plans for bridge feasibility studies.[1][4] By 1964 the Navy supported a bridge if there was at least 200 feet (61m) of clearance for ships which operate out of the nearby Naval Base San Diego to pass underneath it.[1] To achieve this requirement, the bridge was designed to not form a direct path to Coronado, but rather use a curve. The clearance would allow an empty oil-fired aircraft carrier to pass beneath it – it is not sufficient for Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carriers[citation needed].

The principal architect was Robert Mosher. Construction on the San Diego–Coronado Bay Bridge started in February 1967. The bridge required 20,000 tons of steel (13,000 tons in structural steel and 7,000 in reinforcing steel) and 94,000 cubic yards of concrete. To add the concrete girders, 900,000 cubic yards of fill was dredged and the caissons for the towers were drilled and blasted 100 feet into the bed of the bay.

The bridge opened to traffic on August 3, 1969, during the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the founding of San Diego.[4][5] The 11,179-foot-long (3,407 m or 2.1 mi) bridge ascends from Coronado at a 4.67 percent grade before curving 80 degrees toward San Diego. It is supported by 27 concrete girders, the longest ever made at the time of construction.[1]

A view of the bridge from a commercial jet

In 1970, it won the Most Beautiful Bridge Award from American Institute of Steel Construction. The five-lane bridge featured the longest box girder in the world until it was surpassed by a bridge in Chongqing, China in 2008.[6] The bridge is the third largest orthogonal box in the country – the box is the center part of the bridge, between piers 18 and 21 over the main shipping channel.

Tolls and tollbooths[edit]

Originally, the toll was $0.60 in each direction. Several years later, this was changed to a $1.00 toll collected for traffic going westbound to Coronado only. Although the bridge was supposed to become "toll-free" once the original bridge bond was paid (which occurred in 1986), the tolls continued for sixteen additional years. On June 27, 2002, it became the last toll bridge in Southern California to discontinue tolls, despite objections from some residents that traffic to the island would increase.[7][8] The original toll booths on the Coronado side remained intact for a short while, and were temporarily replaced with newer, more modern-looking toll booths for the filming of a car commercial in April 2007. The islands upon which the toll booths sat, as well as the canopy over the toll plaza area, are still intact, located at the western end of the bridge in the westbound lanes. Though tolls are no longer collected, beginning February 19, 2009 there was talk of resuming westbound toll collection to fund major traffic solutions and a tunnel.[9]

Lanes and traffic[edit]

The bridge contains five lanes: two eastbound, two westbound, and a reversible middle lane with a moveable barrier system which can be used to create a third lane in either direction in response to traffic volume.[5] The eastern end of the bridge connects directly to a T interchange with Interstate 5, just southeast of downtown San Diego. It is designated and signed as part of California State Highway 75. The bridge was designed entirely and exclusively for motor vehicle traffic; there are no pedestrian walkways, bike paths, or shoulders ("breakdown lanes"). Beginning in 2008, cyclists have the once-a-year opportunity to ride over the bridge in the Bike the Bay "fun ride".[10]


The pillars supporting the bridge on the eastern end are painted with huge murals as part of Chicano Park, the largest collection of Chicano art murals in the world.[11] This neighborhood park and mural display were created in response to a community uprising in 1970, which protested the negative effects of the bridge and Interstate 5 on the Barrio Logan community. Local artist Salvador Torres proposed using the bridge and freeway pillars as a giant canvas for Chicano art at a time when urban wall murals were rare in the United States, and he and many other artists created the murals when permission for the park was finally granted in 1973.

Suicide bridge[edit]

It is the third deadliest suicide bridge in the USA, trailing only the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Aurora Bridge in Seattle.[12] Between 1972 and 2000, more than 200 suicides occurred on the bridge.[13] Signs have been placed on the bridge urging potential suicides to call a hotline.

One "suicide" was later determined to be a murder. Authorities determined that Jewell P. Hutchings, 52, of Cerritos had been forced to jump at gunpoint; her husband, James Albert Hutchings, was subsequently charged with murdering her and pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter.[14]

Bridge lighting[edit]

In April 2008, the Port released an international call for artists seeking qualifications of artist-led teams interested in developing environmentally-friendly lighting concept proposals for the bridge.[15] In 2010, London-based design group led by Peter Fink was chosen.[16] The winning concept envisages illuminating the bridge with programmable LED lighting in an energy neutral manner using electricity generated by wind turbines.[17] In 2012, two long years after choosing Fink’s project, the Port finally cut a check for $75,000 to initiate fundraising in concert with the San Diego Foundation.[18] The Port of San Diego says no taxpayer dollars will be used. Instead, they are relying on grants and private donations to fund this lighting project, which will ideally be complete by 2019 to coincide with the bridge's 50th anniversary.[19] As of March 2014, the working target date is 2019.[20]

Urban legend[edit]

A decades-old local urban legend claims the center span of the bridge was engineered to float in the event of collapse, allowing Naval ships to push the debris and clear the bay. The myth may have developed as a result of the hollow box design of the 1,880-foot center span, combined with the low-profile barges that made it appear to float on its own during construction. However, Caltrans and the bridge's principal architect, Robert Mosher, maintain that the legend is false.[21]

Selected photos[edit]

A daytime panorama of the bridge.
A night time panorama of the bridge.
Aerial panorama of the bridge.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Linder, Bruce (2001). San Diego's Navy. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. pp. 156–157. ISBN 1-55750-531-4. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Brandes, Ray (1981). San Diego: An Illustrated History. Los Angeles: Rosebud Books. p. 150. ISBN 0-86558-006-5. 
  4. ^ a b Engstrand, Iris (2005). San Diego: California's Cornerstone. Sunbelt Publications. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-932653-72-7. 
  5. ^ a b "San Diego–Coronado Bridge". California Department of Transportation. February 26, 1999. Retrieved April 23, 2011. 
  6. ^ American Segmental Bridge Institute[dead link]
  7. ^ "Frequent Questions", Coronado Visitor Center. Retrieved on December 18, 2009.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "San Diego Union Tribune, Feb. 19, 2009". Retrieved 2011-08-21. 
  10. ^ Bike the Bay webpage
  11. ^ Kevin Delgado (Winter 1998). "A Turning Point: The Conception and Realization of Chicano Park". Journal of San Diego History. Retrieved April 23, 2011. 
  12. ^ LINDA GIBSON (17 July 1999). "Bridge phones offer a new lifeline; Solar-powered phones have been installed on the Skyway to offer direct help for those contemplating suicide". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2011-08-21. 
  13. ^ Suzy Hagstrom (Oct 12, 2000). "Through the Air into Darkness". San Diego Reader. 
  14. ^ Suzy Hagstrom (Oct 5, 2000). "A Big Message". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 21 September 2012. 
  15. ^ Port of San Diego |url= missing title (help). Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  16. ^ CBS8 |url= missing title (help). 
  17. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ CBS8 |url= missing title (help). 
  19. ^ CBS8 |url= missing title (help). 
  20. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ Kyle, Keegan (6 January 2011). "Fact Check: A Bomb Resistant, Floating Coronado Bridge?". Voice of San Diego. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 

External links[edit]