Tacoma Narrows Bridge history (2024)

More than a bridge

Welcome to a site rich in information on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

What's here?

  • Where in the World is the Tacoma Narrows?
  • 1940 Narrows Bridge
  • 1950 Narrows Bridge (westbound)
  • 2007 Narrows Bridge (eastbound)
  • Speaking of Bridges...A Note on Terminology
  • Photo and Image Credits
  • Trivia

Note: This site was developed during the construction of the 2007 Narrows Bridge. It's been preserved for the historical value, but some of the information provided was outdated by the completion of the 2007 Bridge.

Where in the world is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge?

You'll find the "Tacoma Narrows" in western WashingtonStatein the Pacific Northwest.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge history (1)

It's located some 8 miles west of downtown Tacoma(the seat of Pierce County government) and 40 miles south of Seattle on State Route 16. There, the blue waters of Puget Sound become a narrow channel almost a mile wide.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge history (2)

Tacoma Narrows Bridge history (3)
Grand opening celebration of the 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge, held July 1, 1940

1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Slender, elegant and graceful,the Tacoma Narrows Bridge stretched like a steel ribbon across Puget Sound in 1940. The third longest suspension span in the world opened on July 1st. Only four months later, the great span's short life ended in disaster. "Galloping Gertie," collapsed in a windstorm on November 7,1940.

The bridge became famousas "the most dramatic failure in bridge engineering history." Now, it's also "one of the world's largest man-made reefs." The sunken remains of Galloping Gertie were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992 to protect her from salvagers.

A dramatic tale of failure and success

The story of the failure of the 1940 Narrows Bridge and the success of the Current Narrows Bridge is a great American saga. When Galloping Gertie splashed into Puget Sound, it created ripple effects across the nation and around the world. The event changed forever how engineers design suspension bridges. Gertie's failure led to the safer suspension spans we use today.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge history (4)
Tacoma Narrows Bridge, June 14, 2008

1950 Tacoma Narrows Bridge

After 29 months of construction, a new and much safer Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened on Oct. 14, 1950. The current bridge is the 5th longest suspension bridge in the United States. Located on State Route 16 between Tacoma and Gig Harbor, the bridge is 5,979 feet in length. That's 40 feet longer than its predecessor, Galloping Gertie.

Engineers designed the current bridgeto carry 60,000 cars a day. But, now it handles an average of over 90,000 vehicles daily.

Here's how the current Tacoma Narrows Bridge compareswith other major suspension bridges in the United States.

Notable modern suspension bridges in the U.S.
Bridge Name Location Length of main span (feet) Year Completed
Verrazano-Narrows Lower New York Bay 4,260 1964
Golden Gate San Francisco Bay 4,200 1937
Mackinac Mackinac Straits, Mich 3,800 1957
George Washington Hudson River, New York City 3,500 1931
Tacoma Narrows (Current) Puget Sound at Tacoma, Washington 2,800 1950
Al Zampa Bridge Carquinez Strait at Crockett, California 2,388 2003
San Francisco-Oakland Bay San Francisco Bay 2,310 1936
Bronx-Whitestone East River, New York City 2,300 1939

Tacoma Narrows Bridge history (5)

2007 Tacoma Narrows Bridge

In 1998 the public was asked, "Should the Tacoma Narrows Bridge be modified and a parallel bridge constructed, financed by tolls on bridge traffic and operated as a public-private partnership?" A majority of the voters answered "Yes." Work began to plan the design and construction of such a bridge. Following delays, several lawsuits and modified legislation, WSDOT signed a design-build agreement with Tacoma Narrows Constructors (a joint venture with Bechtel Infrastructure and Kiewit Construction) to not only build a new eastbound Tacoma Narrows Bridge, but also a new toll facility and plaza, 3½ miles of improvements to State Route 16, a new bridge maintenance facility, and numerous other improvements to the highway.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the project was held on October 5, 2002, and roadway construction began over the week of January 20, 2003. Over the next 4½ years, TNC and WSDOT worked at a breathtaking pace to complete the project.

The newest Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened to traffic in the early morning hours of July 16, 2007. The day before on July 15, 2007, 60,000 visitors joined WSDOT, elected officials and others to celebrate its completion. Nowhere else had a parallel suspension bridge been built so close to an existing suspension bridge, and it was all accomplished in the challenging tidal, windy Narrows environment. No workers lost their lives during construction of this amazing engineering feat.

Speaking of bridges...A note on terminology

The first Tacoma Narrows Bridge, completed and destroyed in 1940, earned the nickname "Galloping Gertie." We use the "Gertie" label or "1940 Narrows Bridge." The westbound bridge we drive over today was completed in 1950. We call this one the "Current Narrows Bridge." The new eastbound bridge most recently completed is referred to as the "2007 Narrows Bridge."

Photo and image credits

The photographs and other graphic imageson this web site are identified below each image in a caption that also credits to the loaning institution. These images are the exclusive property of the cited institutions. For questions and permission to reproduce images, please contact the institution credited.

Trivia

Weird facts

The Tacoma Narrows Bridges have attracted a host of life's oddities. This special collection of "Weird Facts" offers the best of those fun and unique incidents.

Tubby trivia

"Tubby" the dog fell into fame when Galloping Gertie collapsed on November 7, 1940. As the only victim of that great disaster, Tubby has earned a special place in the hearts of many.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge history (2024)

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