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Blaring Horns, No Tolls Mark Bay Bridge's 50th Birthday

November 13, 1986|Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, an eight-mile workhorse traveled by 250,000 vehicles a day, marked its 50th birthday Wednesday with balloons, blaring horns and free crossings for thousands of commuters.

Flags of the states and U.S. territories flew from the upper deck of the cantilever section, while a gigantic red candle, complete with electrically lighted flame, decorated nearly the entire 500-foot length of one of the north suspension towers.

Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson used a blowtorch to cut a chain in a reenactment of the bridge opening five decades ago. Five thousand red, white and blue balloons were loosed as motorists, some dressed in period costume, honked in approval.

The focal point of the celebration was the dedication of two plaques, one commemorating the 29 workers who died constructing the bridge and another honoring James (Sunny Jim) Rolph Jr., who championed its construction as mayor and as governor. He died before it was completed.

Radio station KNBR picked up tolls for an estimated 8,700 motorists--$6,500, presented in a check to the state Department of Transportation--during the morning rush.

A huge fireworks show is planned for Saturday night.

With the party, the Bay Bridge overshadowed its more famous sister down the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, which will have to wait until May for its 50th birthday bash.

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