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Fog is corroding the Golden Gate Bridge (again)

Exterior panels need to be replaced

Half of the Golden Gate Bridge steeped in fog.
David Ohmer’s 2008 photo “Biased Fog” illustrates the problem: fog tends to hit the bridge unevenly.
David Ohmer

According to ABC7, the southern half of the Golden Gate Bridge has been in sorry shape these last few years, and the usual suspects are to blame: salt water, and fog.

As the bridge’s official website points out, the bridge’s original International Orange paint job was “two-thirds lead by weight.” Modern paint is zinc-based, which is safer but protects the bridge mostly just by being corroded away itself, serving as a “sacrificial metal.”

Evidently it’s having trouble keeping up, at least on the end closest to the city where the fog tends to concentrate:

The north tower is sheltered by the Marin Headlands, but the south tower has been battered and torn, especially on the rippled steel surfaces that give the bridge its art deco style.

It’s taken a beating for so long [...] the fog has eaten right through the steel. The district wants to make new cover plates and install them during the seismic retrofit that's scheduled for the suspension span.

Bridge officials are quick to assure the public that it’s only the surface plates rather than the structure of the bridge itself that’s corroded. They’ll need to be replaced, but it could take years.

Meanwhile, tourists have started to notice that the span seems ragged around the edges lately. Here’s the southern tower roughly four years ago:

And here it is this morning:

A post shared by skillsinc (@jakelowe1984) on

Hard to see much difference at a distance, but the naked eye reveals more than the camera.

The bridge is always fighting rust, of course. The main cable is still overdue for a paint job, and back in 2013, inspections found corrosion underneath the roadway.

Bridge painters can make over $170,000/year, but say that they can no longer reach certain areas of the bridge because safety equipment needs to be brought up to code.