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Buttigieg and Pelosi visit the Golden Gate Bridge, bring $400M for earthquake retrofit

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg joins Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and other officials at a news conference to celebrate a $400 million federal grant to upgrade and retrofit the Golden Gate Bridge on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Though it’s considered one of the world’s seven modern wonders and most famous landmarks, the Golden Gate Bridge is also just a way for thousands of people to get where they need to go every day. Now, it’s getting a huge injection of cash to reinforce its structural integrity.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and White House Infrastructure Coordinator and former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu gathered at the Golden Gate Bridge this morning to celebrate a $400 million federal grant to upgrade and retrofit the span to withstand a major earthquake.

United States Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg discusses the need to ensure the Golden Gate Bridge's longevity and resistance to earthquakes far into the future. | Video by Jesse Rogala

“The bridge is an emblem of the U.S. itself and one of the cathedrals of American infrastructure,” Buttigieg said, adding that without the investment in seismic upgrades, the bridge would become more vulnerable each passing year.

“There is only one Golden Gate Bridge, and we are going to protect it,” said Buttigieg.

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of only four U.S. bridges selected by the Department of Transportation to receive $2.1 billion in Large Bridge Project Grants from President Biden’s $1.3 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The other recipients are the Brent Spence Bridge in Kentucky, the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in Connecticut and four spans bridging the Calumet River in Chicago. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg addresses the news conference on the Golden Gate Bridge retrofit grant on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Buttigieg said the seismic upgrade will also add “years and years of good jobs”—most of them union jobs—to add 40 energy dissipators, strengthen bracing, retrofit the towers and complete other projects on the span.

Under a perfectly calm, blue-sky morning, speaker after speaker took the podium to praise the beauty and importance of the 85-year-old engineering marvel. Several stressed the importance of the Golden Gate in a post-disaster scenario, where travel times between the city and the North Bay would increase not by minutes but by hours if the bridge were rendered unsafe to cross.

“[This bridge] is important to the people of San Francisco and the people of the world,” said Landrieu, crediting Pelosi with securing the federal funds to protect the span. “And the only reason we are here is because [the former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi] made it happen.”

Pelosi then took the podium, noting how many immigrants have arrived via the Golden Gate in the past 150 years, and how the bridge had been a welcome sight to troops coming home after the wars, calling it the “manifestation of America.” 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed reflects on the important role the Golden Gate Bridge plays in the Bay Area and beyond. | Video by Jesse Rogala

Beyond the bridge’s beauty, Mayor Breed ticked off several impressive statistics about the span’s annual traffic: 40 million cars, 2.3 million bikers and pedestrians, 2.2 million transit riders and 800,000 freight vehicles. 

“When people visit San Francisco, the first thing at the top of their list is, ‘How do I get to the Golden Gate Bridge?'” said Breed, who is also a former member of the Golden Gate Bridge Board of Directors. 

Mayor London Breed joined Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi at the Golden Gate Bridge to celebrate a $400 million federal grant on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Breed thanked Pelosi for championing the investment in the bridge, as well as the many different types of workers who keep the bridge up and running, adding,  “It takes a village, but it also takes a whole lot of money.” 

A Sunny Day for the Golden Gate

Both Buttigieg and Landrieu joked that they usually have to divvy up their appearances, given so many projects are going on around the U.S. But both were insistent about coming to San Francisco today for this announcement. 

“There is rarely a time when we argue about who is going where, but there was no chance he was going to San Francisco without me,” said Landrieu, who recalled first crossing the Golden Gate as a child on a family vacation with his eight siblings. 

Pelosi also described the first time she crossed the Golden Gate when she came to California with her father for the Democratic National Convention.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi describes the Golden Gate Bridge's international significance as a manifestation of the American Dream. | Video by Jesse Rogala

“I thought it was going to be golden—but it was orange,” said Pelosi, wearing a pantsuit very similar in color to that of the famed bridge.

Speakers also mentioned the ongoing storm and flood recovery, as well as the mass shooting in Monterey Park over the weekend. 

“You have had your challenges in California but you have to know that the country is with you and will be with you for a long time,” said Landrieu, who dealt with several hurricanes as mayor of New Orleans. 

After the official programming celebrating the Golden Gate Bridge's $400 million seismic retrofit grant, officials gathered to look at photos of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg's children. | Maryann Jones Thompson/The Standard

After their remarks, officials stayed to greet attendees. The speakers gathered on stage to look at photos of Secretary Buttigieg’s toddlers, and Mayor Breed traded barbs with former Mayor Landrieu about whose city was the better food destination. 

When asked about his favorite mode of transportation in San Francisco, Buttigieg was politically correct in his response.

“I don’t really like to pick a favorite mode of transportation, but it’s definitely a rich tradition here in San Francisco.”