Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bridge PR 

Here is a novel example of public relations. I am calling it "Bridge PR" for want of a better term. As those of you know who have visited San Francisco, there are two key bridges that cross the bay to the City -- the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge is world famous. The Bay Bridge? What is there to say? It has always been an ugly but functional structure that performed a yeoman's job since it was completed in 1939.

The Bay Bridge must be replaced because it is no longer safe in earthquakes, and that touched off a long-running furor in San Francisco. San Francisco politicians did not want just any old bridge to cross to the city. They want a cable suspension bridge as beautiful as Golden Gate to make the crossing from the island in the Center of the Bay to the City itself.

Problem. The cost of a suspension bridge is a billion dollars more than the cost of a functional deck-type bridge that is -- well -- ugly. This would never do for San Francisco's image. Wrangling went on for years until last week the state announced that to fund the pretty suspension bridge, drivers would pay a dollar more for each toll to cross it. It seems no one asked the drivers but there hasn't been any outraged response -- not as of this hour anyway.

So, San Francisco gets to maintain its image as a sophisticated city with a lovely new bridge. Seems kind of expensive for a public relations exercise, though.


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