The Journal Gazette
Saturday, June 27, 2020 1:00 am

San Francisco sings of its Golden Gate

If you've been to San Francisco, you've seen the Golden Gate Bridge. For some, that's the primary reason to go to this windy, hilly, expensive city bordering the Pacific. And those who've seen what was once the longest suspension bridge in the world are rarely disappointed.

But now the bridge, opened in May 1937 after nearly four years of construction, has a new “feature” Bay Area residents and visitors are being told they are going to have to get used to. And many of them aren't happy about it.

Some call it singing, a whistle or a meditative hum. But many others find it just plain eerie, describing it as a “ghostly wail,” “creepy” or a “scary howl.” It must seem especially apocalyptic when fog covers much of the bay and bridge. In a report for KQED public radio, Gabe Meline described the effect as making the bridge sound like a “giant orange wheezing kazoo.”

More used to being the inspiration for songs than the instrument, the bridge is being modified with new narrower slats installed on the bicycle path on the west side. Officials say the project is about 75% complete.

Engineers, whose mission was to stabilize the bridge in high winds, tested the design on a scale model in a wind tunnel.

For those driving on or walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, movement on the 6,450-foot (1.2-mile) span can be more than a little disconcerting. In fact, the bridge has been closed to traffic three times since it was opened because of winds reaching 69 to 75 mph, most recently in 1983.

What the engineers failed to disclose, at least in enough specificity to register with San Franciscans, is that the new sides would – in winds gusting to as little as 40 mph – create an audio effect that could be heard across the city and which could last all day.

“The bridge sings crazy songs now ...,” tweeted Mark Krueger, as quoted by KQED. “It hurts the ears and (is) unbearable it's that loud.”

San Francisco city and county officials say the renovations will continue with no planned adjustments.

“The Golden Gate Bridge learned how to scream, which is perfect for 2020,” said Katy Rose Pool in a Twitter post.

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