"Who was Guy West anyway?"
Two Sac State
students walking across the Guy A. West Suspension Bridge
on the way to class one morning pondered a question that had
nothing to do with surprise quizzes or grade point averages."Who
was Guy West anyway?" asked one.
the second student, " Why, I guess he built this bridge."
Not a bad
guess, but a little wide of the mark.
West was the first president of Sac State when it opened in
1947 in temporary quarters at Sacramento City College. The
pedestrian bridge that is far from pedestrian in design was
named in his honor. It opened in 1967, 14 years after the
University's move to the present J Street site, to connect
the campus with the then wide-open spaces on the east bank
of the American River. West had retired two years before the
bridge was dedicated in 1967.
As it was
intended, the bridge remains a landmark, a baby cousin of
the famed Golden Gate Bridge.The 600-foot Guy West span was
hailed as the "longest foot suspension bridge in the
United States" at the time of its opening. That title
has been lost to other projects. For example, the recently
opened Sundial Bridge suspended over the Sacramento River
at Redding is 700 feet.
have not, however, diminished the impressive visuals of the
Guy West, with its twin 1,144-foot towers, its gently arched
walkway, and, from the east or west railing, the sun glinting
off riffles on the river's surface.
won first prize in special-type bridges in an annual contest
sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction
a year after it opened.
and at a bargain price. The Guy West cost $636,000 to build.
The new Sundial beauty at Redding topped out at $19.7 million
by the time it opened in 2004. The bargain of the Guy West
was further enhanced by the fact that it didn't cost taxpayers
a dime. It was paid for by the developers of Campus Commons,
the residential and commercial development on the east side
of the bridge that was only in the design stage when the bridge
was designed by Ted D'Amico, then executive
vice president of The Spink Corp., a Sacramento-based engineering
firm that planned and designed much of Sacramento's
city and county development. "Where Campus Commons is
now was a hops field," D'Amico says. "The people
who bought the land and were the prime developers- Bob Hurst
and Henry Moss-realized that they had to tie the development
to the campus with convenient access. They came up with the
idea of a suspension bridge. And the campus needed a visual
identity like the Campanile at UC Berkeley and the Hoover
Tower at Stanford.
could have designed a simple functional bridge which wouldn't
have been as high but the developers wanted a suspension bridge
and it had the advantage of not having to build piers in the
the understudy to a legend has its drawbacks as well. Unlike
the much larger Golden Gate Bridge, where the salt air ravages
keep a painting crew busy year around, the Guy West hasn't
had a cosmetic makeover in 20 years. Its once golden tone
has mellowed to a salmon color.
was turned over to the city of Sacramento upon its completion
and both the city and the campus are eager to get the bridge
a much-needed paint job, this time with a Sac State-appropriate
twist-a new green and gold color scheme for the towers with
the University's name on the span.
job could be expensive-about $2 million-not so much for the
fresh paint, but because crews must first buff off the existing
lead-based paint. To protect the river below, the bridge would
have to be wrapped in much the same way Sacramento's Tower
Bridge was during its recent facelift.
redo is high on the city's maintenance list and could be even
higher if funding became available. And donations would be
more than welcome. After all, we're talking a landmark here.
contact the University's Development Office at (916) 278-6989.