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Emperor Norton Bay Bridge

August 31, 2013


WHEREAS historical precedent clearly indicates the span between San Francisco and Oakland should be named after Emperor Norton I; by the powers vested in me, I hereby declare both the eastern and western segments to be named “The Emperor Norton Bay Bridge”.


and WHEREAS whoever after due and proper warning shall be heard to utter any other abominable name with obviously no historic or other warrant THEREFORE shall be deemed guilty of a High Misdemeanor, and shall pay into the Imperial Treasury as penalty the sum of one hundred dollars.

(as illustrated by @darth)

And please SIGN THE PETITION and CALL your state representative.

Here is Emperor Norton’s original Bay Bridge Proclamation from the March 23, 1872 Pacific Appeal, along with his September 1872 bridge/tunnel survey proclamation:

Emperor Norton March 23 1872 Bay Bridge proclamation 1872 Sept 21 Norton I bridge survey proclamation

Historical update — looks like Emperor Norton first proposed the bridge in January 1872:

1872 Jan 6 Norton I bridge

(Ravenswood=East Palo Alto. And all the politics and money of the day of where a bridge should go.)

(This being the internet, there is of course a collection of all of Emperor Norton’s proclamations available.)

@lukasb raises a good point on the short form:

I suggest “The Emperor” — “Traffic approaching the Emperor is backed up past the Maze.”

Here’s the first crossing video I’ve seen (sped up 4x).

and an upward looking fisheye video I made:

Some will miss the old cantilever more than others.

Psychologically, I liked the cantilever better. It was the only Bay Area bridge left that your kid could build with an erector set, and there was something calming about that. The view will be better on the new bridge, but I felt contained on the cantilever. If that epic gust of wind ever came up while I was driving a U-Haul, I would bounce off one of the girders and continue my journey.

My blood pressure won’t drop on the eastern span any more. Darth Vader’s theme is what comes to mind. I will always look at that blocky white tower the same way I look at 747s. “How is that @#$%ing thing keeping us from all falling into the bay?”

I wasn’t surprised to learn that engineers designing the old span in 1932 knew that the cantilever design was ugly.

“We have made several layouts in an effort to develop a structure more pleasing in appearance than a conventional cantilever.”

They considered several other designs, including—wait for it—a self-anchored span. But it was considered too expensive. The cantilever design was chosen not just for cost, but because the pilings couldn’t reach bedrock.

This and many other fascinating details in this historic engineering record

…including a slideshow, and a schematics .


And don’t forget those who put it together, including the 28 known fatalities (p. 199).

And here’s the first wave of traffic passing over the Emperor:


(I cheated a bit on both photos — the top part is from a construction webcam snapshot taken earlier in the week, while the bottom parts were from the same webcam the night The Emperor opened.)

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Ramón permalink
    August 31, 2013 5:49 pm

    The ENB – Emperor Norton Bridge! Absolutely! There’s an online petition to make it so. Find the link and forward to everybody you know!

  2. Ramón permalink
    August 31, 2013 5:55 pm

    Emperor Norton Bridge – petition:

  3. Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable permalink
    August 31, 2013 6:54 pm


  4. August 31, 2013 7:33 pm

    It took them Long Enough!!

  5. Sam Foster permalink
    September 1, 2013 3:57 pm

    All hail The Emperor!

  6. September 4, 2013 2:23 pm


    The more creative gardener in my household was even inspired to create a themed installation to train the peas…


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