‘The Front Steps’: How They’re Going To Stop the Golden Gate Bridge Making That Noise

When showing off housing in the Richmond, the Golden Gate Bridge is a pretty solid ace in the hole.

Sure, the bridge inspires and represents the entire city, and lots of locations have great views of it, but the Richmond enjoys more homes with great bridge views and a shorter commute to visit the world-famous span than almost any other neighborhood.

Unless of course the bridge were to start making a strange noise that drives some people nuts and makes realtors sweat at the prospect of showing off Richmond homes on a windy day, which is exactly what happened last summer.

As reported in the Richmond Review, the mystery noise started last year, partly as a consequence of new suicide deterrent measures.

Fearing that the net being installed beneath the span will increase wind pressure on it by acting like a gigantic sail, engineers added new, thinner railing elements on the west side to make the bridge more aerodynamic.

Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

That’s all well and good, but the result is that strange, high-pitched harmonica sound you now hear on windy days, sometimes audible for miles.

Some neighborhood residents actually enjoy the span’s “song”; others say it drives them to the verge of madness. There is, for the record, no evidence that this phenomena spoiled property values or demand for nearby homes, but this is nevertheless a source of anxiety for some.

So what’s to be done? On Thursday, Golden Gate Bridge District engineers will present a fix to the district board of directors: 26,000 “U-shaped aluminum clips” to be added to the railing slats, along with “rubber damping material inserts” that are supposed to stifle the sound.

According to the proposal, the bridge might still make a bit of noise in high winds, but it would be no more than the usual level of “ambient sound” on the structure, except on a few rare occasions when “wind tunnel speed and direction combinations” make it a bit noisier.

Photo by Nick Wehrli on Pexels.com

Keeping the value of the bridge’s profile and historic design in mind, the new additions are to be painted international orange and supposedly won’t change the classic shape of the span in any really significant way (although at this point some people are so weirded out by the noises they might not care as much as once they did).

This build went through wind tunnel tests with a scale bridge railing last last year and earlier this year. The estimated cost: $450,000.

If the board approves the measure, the district will move to skip CEQA review and fast-track the fix. And then hopefully homeowners and visitors to the neighborhood alike can once again enjoy the sound of silence.

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