san-francisco-bay-bridge-california-1935.jpgThe Golden Gate Bridge may be the most celebrated of the transbay crossings, but it isn’t the oldest. The Bay Bridge is one year older, and Saturday marks its 75th anniversary.

Caltrans officials announced today that it–along with the California Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Toll Authority–celebrated the milestone in the bridge’s history and announced plans for a yearlong series of events honoring the span.

The bridge opened to traffic on Nov. 12, 1936. Ever since, it has been the backbone of the region’s economy, bridge officials said.

“Historically, the Bay Bridge has provided the region with the vital transportation link to support the thriving economic vitality that the Bay Area is known for,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement today.

Caltrans acting Director Malcolm Dougherty treated the celebration as an opportunity to emphasize the importance of continuing investment in infrastructure, in the Bay Area and across the U.S.

“Without efforts to take care of vital transportation links like the Bay Bridge, we run the risk that it may become vulnerable to an earthquake or other safety concerns,” Dougherty said.

In recent years, the Bay Bridge has received investments to the tune of $6.3 billion, the price to replace the bridge’s east span with the iconic self-anchored suspension span that is expected to open to traffic in late 2013.

“It’s not only appropriate that we pay tribute to the bridge for the generations of service already provided, but also imperative that we complete work on the new east span as quickly as possible,” Bay Area Toll Authority Executive Director Steve Heminger said today.

Last month, Caltrans crews placed the final section of the new span’s roadway, and installation of the main cable is expected to begin later this year or in early 2012, according to Caltrans.

The three agencies comprise the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee, which oversees the seismic retrofit of the state’s bridges, including the Bay Bridge.

Details about future celebrations had not yet been released. Instead, bridge officials encouraged members of the public to watch for updates by following the bridge’s Facebook page or visiting

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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