The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Then and Now

By July 15, 2007General

Interesting news on the infrastructure front comes from Washington, where a new span of the Tacoma Narrows bridge opened today with a ribbon cutting, public walk and other festivities. From the Seattle Times:

The new Tacoma Narrows Bridge is the longest suspension bridge built in the U.S. since 1964; a partially suspended bridge is being built between San Francisco and Oakland, Calif. Construction of the $849 million Tacoma bridge began in late 2002. The project also includes seismic improvements to the existing 1950 bridge.

The state Department of Transportation has a full schedule of today’s events here, designviz_big.jpg
including a nice piece of transparency, the budget and sponsors for the celebrations. You can also gets a full fact-sheet from the WDOT on this page.

The NAM closely follows infrastructure issues, as transportation — by rail, truck, airplane, cargo ship , etc. — is an essential component of the manufacturing sector, obviously. Doubling the capacity of the Tacoma bridge is good news.

The new span also reminds one of the most famous — infamous? — moments in U.S. engineering history, the collapse of the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge on Nov. 7, 1940. The original design proved susceptible to high winds, which set the bridge undulating; it eventually shook itself apart, collapsing into the sound. The University of Washington’s special collection materials are available here, and a brief history is here. The collapse was well-documented on film, and you can see excerpts here.

A welcome development, the completion of a major bridge. May there be many more.

UPDATE (7:15 p.m.): Information on the retrofitting and construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is available here, at

UPDATE II (11:50 a.m. July 16): A reader directs us to a blogger — “The Doctor is In” — who has followed the bridge construction on his website. Great resource.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Vanderleun says:

    There’s a great blogging project about this done by The Doctor Is In blog that’s been happening for about two years. Here’s the link for part 15 which has links to the previous work:

    “For those who may be new to this series, I have been blogging the construction of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge. See the above posts for more information on the Narrows Bridges, the engineering challenges, and a first-hand tour taken of the construction site.”

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