Terry Jeffrey

This differed sharply from the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge, which would be funded by both the state and federal governments.

"In contrast," writes Dyble, "Golden Gate Bridge boosters were vehement about maintaining local control of the project. However, local control also meant local risk; even Coombs, the sponsor of the enabling act for the Golden Gate Bridge, remarked that its financing put a 'heavy burden on the small counties.' Also, the Golden Gate Bridge had little chance of winning state or federal assistance because the bridge district was structured to limit its accountability to other governments."

Dyble quotes a remarkable claim published in a report from the chief engineer for the project. "After the 40th year, the bridge having retired its bonds and accumulated the substantial surplus of 17 million-odd besides, will become free," said the report. "The user's tax of a toll bridge falls only on THOSE WHO USE THE BRIDGE. Thus the visitor relieves the local taxpayer and pays his pro rata cost of the improvement."

In 1930, Dyble reported, the people in the six counties that were part of the special district voted by the necessary two-thirds majority to approve a bond issue.

But that was just one year after the 1929 stock market crash. Who would buy the bonds?

As Kevin Starr wrote in "Golden Gate: The Life and Times of America's Greatest Bridge," the special district looked into borrowing money from the federal Reconstruction Finance Corp., which had already provided $71.4 million in financing for the Bay Bridge. But that was to no avail.

"Enter Amadeo Peter Giannini, chairman and president of the Bank of America and the controlling presence on the Bankamerica syndicate that was considering the purchase of $6 million in Golden Gate Bridge District bonds necessary to begin construction," wrote Starr.

According to Starr, Giannini asked Strauss how long the bridge would last. "Forever," said Strauss.

But the debt incurred in building the bridge was not eternal. The bridge district paid it off in 1971.

Alas, as Dyble noted in her history, the bridge district then morphed into a mass transit agency that uses tolls imposed on motorists to subsidize buses and ferries.

Obama's repeated use of the Golden Gate Bridge as a symbol to justify his use of federal deficit spending to sustain a manifestly flawed vision for spurring economic growth is ironic because the building of that bridge is as much a symbol of local action and fiscal prudence as the bridge itself is an icon of architectural excellence and engineering prowess.

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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