Broken bridges part of Washington history
The Pacific Northwest has had its share of bridge troubles through the years. Here are a few of the most famous ones.
The spectacular collapse in 1940 of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (better known as Galloping Gertie) may be the most famous, and the stunning plunge of a section of Interstate 5 near Mount Vernon the most recent, but there have been a number of other notable highway-bridge troubles in the Pacific Northwest over the years.
The Washington State Department of Transportation has compiled a list of 71 “bridge failures by various forces” from 1905 to 2009, which includes some of those listed below.
• Dec. 18, 1915: A steel bridge across the Spokane River at Division Street collapsed, sending five people to their deaths and injuring a number of others.
• Nov. 7, 1940: Because of its tendency to rock in the wind, Galloping Gertie was the name given to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge after it opened in the summer of 1940. In November, in a 42 mph wind, the third-longest suspension bridge in the nation fell to pieces into Puget Sound. It was re-engineered and rebuilt in 1950.
• June 11, 1978: The freighter MV Chavez ran into the old steel drawbridge that linked West Seattle with downtown. The bridge was permanently stuck in the open position, resulting in the construction of a soaring six-lane bridge and freeway.
• Feb. 13, 1979: The Hood Canal Bridge sank during a severe windstorm. It took years to repair, and it was temporarily replaced by the revival of an old ferry route.
• Nov. 25, 1990: The new Interstate 90 span on Lake Washington had just opened and the state was beginning to refurbish the old one, which was built in 1940. Holes that had been cut in the floating pontoons took on water during a week of high winds and rain, and what had been the world’s first floating bridge sank.
• July 29, 2000: A barge being pushed by a tugboat crashed into the Highway 520 floating bridge and damaged a support column, leading to nearly two weeks of traffic snarls in the Seattle area as the state closed one lane of eastbound traffic until the bridge could be repaired. The captain of the tug had fallen asleep.
Material from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.