(Green) and Golden Gate
Sacramento 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
“Who was Guy West anyway?” asked one.
Replied the second student, “Why, I guess he built this
Not a bad guess, but technically, a little wide of the mark.
Guy West was the first president of Sacramento 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 site, to
connect the campus with the then wide-open spaces on the east
bank of the American River. West had retired a year 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’s Turtle Bay at Redding is
700 feet long.
The years 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. The bridge
won first prize in special-type bridges in an annual contest
sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction
a year after it opened.
All this and at a bargain 1966-67 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 on Fourth of July
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 built.
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.
“We 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 water.”
But being 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.
bridge 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 Sacramento
State-appropriate twist—a new green and gold color scheme
for the towers with the University’s name on the span.
paint 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 prevent the lead
from falling into the river below, the bridge would have to
be wrapped with plastic in much the same way Sacramento’s
Tower Bridge was wrapped during its facelift.
redo is high on the city’s maintenance list and could
be even higher if funding became available. And both the city
and the University also agree, contributions from donors would
be more than welcome. After all, we’re talking a landmark
contact the University’s Development Office at 278-6989.