Stop #1 — The Interstate Bridge

The Interstate Bridge

“People wanted a transcontinental railroad. This was because it was absolutely necessary to bind the country together. Further, it was possible, because train technology was improving daily. The locomotives were getting faster, safer, more powerful, as the cars became more comfortable..”
Nothing Like It In The World by Stephen Ambrose

According to Vintage Portland, the Interstate Bridge, linking Oregon and Washington, was dedicated on February 14, 1917, as a single bridge with two-way traffic.

The 1905 Expo in Portland caused a massive traffic jam at the Columbia River steam ferry, which sparked widespread demand for a bridge. John Switzler ran the Portland – Vancouver ferry before the construction of the Interstate Bridge.

By 1914, with a great deal of bi-state local support, the Washington and Oregon state legislatures approved the sale of bonds to fund the Interstate Bridge. The original bridge cost a little under $1,790,000 with Clark County voting overwhelmingly for the issuance of $500,000 of bonds and Multnomah County issuing bonds for $1,250,000.

On December 30, 1916, the Interstate Bridge opened to foot traffic due to bad weather and ice on the Columbia preventing the ferry from running.

On January 24, 1917, a streetcar made a trial run over the new bridge. Streetcars had regular schedules between Vancouver and Portland, and continued until 1940 when asphalt was poured over the tracks.

The 100th anniversary of the I-5 Bridge was celebrated Saturday February 11th, 2017 from 3:00pm – 6:00pm at the Red Lion on the River – Jantzen Beach.

JOHN BARBER, who teaches Vancouver’s Digital Media at WSU (Facebook), premiered a remarkable re-creation of the 1917 ceremonies.

John’s A Mighty Span broadcast re-creation is a 15:00 sound installation invited by the PDX Bridge Festival.

This 1917 view of the bridge shows the earlier passenger ferry, shot from the Vancouver side.

Located at River Mile 106.5, the original bridge is 3,531 ft long with the lift span between towers 250 ft wide and 150 ft high above ordinary high water. The interstate Bridge originally had a toll of 5 cents for motorists and people riding animals. The toll ended in 1929.

Two little girls in white stockings and high button shoes pulled loose the bow that opened the first bridge. The same pair, 41 years older, untied the bow that opened the new $6,815,000 span in 1958. Tolls for the 1958 bridge of 20 cents were collected until 1966.

When the 1958 span was constructed, the bridge was modified to include an arch in the center span to allow most barge traffic to pass under without requiring a lift. When the new span opened in 1958, the original bridge was closed for two years to add a matching humped section. (more at page bottom)


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