“Like a bird on a wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir,
I have tried in my way to be free!!”
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge is a pair of twin suspension bridges that span the Tacoma Narrows strait of Puget Sound in Pierce County, Washington. The bridges connect the city of Tacoma with the Kitsap Peninsula and carry State Route 16 (known as Primary State Highway 14 until 1964) over the strait. Historically, the name “Tacoma Narrows Bridge” has applied to the original bridge nicknamed “Galloping Gertie”, which opened in July 1940 but collapsed because of aeroelastic flutter four months later, as well as the replacement of the original bridge which opened in 1950 and still stands today as the westbound lanes of the present-day twin bridge complex.
The original Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened on July 1, 1940. It received its nickname “Galloping Gertie” because of the vertical movement of the deck observed by construction workers during windy conditions. The bridge became known for its pitching deck, and collapsed into Puget Sound the morning of November 7, 1940, under high wind conditions. Engineering issues as well as the United States’ involvement in World War II postponed plans to replace the bridge for several years; the replacement bridge was opened on October 14, 1950.
By 1990, population growth and development on the Kitsap Peninsula caused traffic on the bridge to exceed its design capacity; as a result, in 1998 Washington voters approved a measure to support building a parallel bridge. After a series of protests and court battles, construction began in 2002 and the new bridge opened to carry eastbound traffic on July 15, 2007, while the 1950 bridge was reconfigured to carry westbound traffic.
At the time of their construction, both the 1940 and 1950 bridges were the third-longest suspension bridges in the world in terms of main span length, behind the Golden Gate Bridge and George Washington Bridge. The 1950 and 2007 bridges are now the fifth-longest suspension bridge spans in the United States, and the 38th-longest in the world.
It’s an impressive bridge.
Location: Tacoma, Gig Harbor
Bodies of water: Puget Sound, Tacoma Narrow
Total length 5,400 ft (1,645.92 m)
Longest span 2,800 ft (853.44 m)
Clearance below 187.5 ft (57.15 m)
Opened October 14, 1950 (westbound)
July 15, 2007 (eastbound)
I’d never been to the Narrows Park. Today was a very foggy day and the water for the most part was still, the only movement from the ducks and gulls breaking the surface. I walked about a mile on the beach, passing only two fishermen. The solitary time was wonderful and I was happy to spend my time soaking in the environment around me with nary an interruption.
“I am sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath but I can’t think of one.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar