Just like there’s a lot to be learned from burning the metaphorical bridges in our lives, the same can be said for the physical, historic bridges we find all around us. From London’s infamous Tower Bridge to the old as time Pont de Gard in Rome, all the way to the iconic Brooklyn Bridge in New York and San Francisco’s magnificent Golden Gate Bridge, all these bridges and more have acted as architectural wonders and transformational connections around the globe, resulting in rich, historical milestones as some of them connected the masses, and often nations, for the first time.
Bridges have definitely made travel easier, that’s for sure! And there are even some historic bridges right here in the Tri-Cities, keeping the traffic flowing and connecting the masses still today!
420 Road 37, Pasco
Spanning the Columbia River between Kennewick and Pasco is the Blue Bridge, formally known as the Pioneer Memorial Bridge. Construction on the bridge began in 1951 after it was determined that the previous bridge, the Green Bridge, built in 1922, could not handle the 10,000+ cars crossing it daily. It was completed in the summer of 1954, totaling $7.1 million in cost, with the finishing paint trim being green like the other one.
Eventually, the crossing was repainted blue, which is when it received the popular moniker “Blue Bridge” among Pasco residents despite being named the “Pioneer Memorial Bridge” in 1967 after the name was chosen in a local radio contest. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
South 10th Avenue, looming over Clover Island
Formally known as the Ed Hendler Bridge or Intercity Bridge, the Cable Bridge has since become an unofficial symbol of the Tr-Cities community after its completion in 1978. At the time, it was permanently replacing the aforementioned Green Bridge, also known as the Pasco-Kennewick Bridge, which was later demolished in 1990. The bridge was named after Ed Hendler, a Pasco insurance salesman and the city’s former mayor, who headed up the committee responsible for obtaining the funding for the bridge’s construction.
The bridge is one of seven major structures connecting the Tri-Cities and the first cable-stayed bridge built in the United States. At the time of its completion, it was the second longest of its kind in the world, having been made almost entirely of prestressed concrete. Lights were later added to the bridge in 1998 to illuminate it at night. At the time, it was controversial among residents, with some deeming them unnecessary and a waste of money. Though they were frequently turned on again and off for extended periods, today, they are turned on every night, illuminating the bridge until 2 a.m. There is even talk of replacing the lights with programmable LEDs that can be controlled via a computer to change color.
Lyons Ferry Bridge
State Route 261, LaCrosse
Next to Lyons Ferry Park on State Route 261 at the confluence of the Snake and Palouse Rivers is the Lyons Ferry Bridge, also known as the Snake River Bridge. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and was constructed five decades earlier, in 1927. Back then, it was known as the Vantage Ferry Bridge and was designed to carry the North Central Highway over the Columbia River in Vantage.
Lyons Ferry Bridge replaced what had previously been a four-car fiery working along the river, transporting as many as 50,000 people across the waters annually by 1923. With the rising traffic, it was clear a bridge was needed. Initially, the plan was to have the bridge be a privately constructed toll bridge, but it was vehemently opposed by Washington Governor Louis F. Hart because it would be a toll bridge on a taxpayer-supported highway. In addition, the state also stood to lose $900,000 in federal funds for the North Central Highway if a toll bridge were to be built. As a result, the state approved funding for its own bridge instead.
Decades later, in the 1950s, plans were implemented to create the Wanapum Dam downriver, which would raise the water levels, causing a need to create a higher bridge. The 1927 bridge was then dismantled and stored so that a new four-lane bridge could be built. The new bridge operated until the construction of the Lower Monumental Dam caused the river to slow, increasing crossing time in the process. As a result, it was resurrected at its original Lyons Ferry location in 1968.
The only changes to be made to the original were adding some concrete approach spans built to accommodate the crossing in addition to the 1927 truss span. Historically, truss bridges had often been relocated and reused in this manner, but the practice had been more common in the late 1800s and early 20th century. This was also typically done with smaller simple truss bridges, not enormous cantilever truss bridges like the Snake River Bridge. Due to this unique characteristic, this bridge is one of the largest known truss bridges to have been relocated in this manner.
Though it was built in 1984 and hasn’t made it onto the list of National Register of Historic Places just yet, Interstate 182 Bridge will also join the list of historic bridges in the Tri-Cities someday. Until then, it’ll be connecting the masses, along with these astonishing historical bridges connecting those along the Columbia River and telling the stories of those that traveled it before us.