The Bridge as a Connection

Why were the
bridges built?

The Bridge as Machine

How did they
build the bridges?

The Bridge as Art

Why do the bridges
look like they do?
  People of the Bridge
Who designed
the bridges?

Proposed Bridges for The Tacoma Narrows:
A Chronology

1889     A railroad crossing (probably a trestle, rather than a bridge) at the Narrows is briefly contemplated by the Northern Pacific Railroad. A clerk in the NP Land Department named George Eaton proposes the link between Tacoma (the terminus of the transcontinental line) and Port Orchard, site of a proposed Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
1928   August. Charles A. Cook. A steel cantilever span similar to the Carquinez Strait Bridge, a 4,500 foot span. Cost: $8 million.
1929   March. Architect David B. Steinman. A suspension bridge 4,944 feet long with towers rising 670 feet above the Narrows, a 2,400-foot center span, two side spans of 912 feet and another of 720 on the west side connecting to the Peninsula. $9 million.
1931   January. Tacoma City engineers. Designed by C. H. Votaw and Charles E. Putnam. A steel cantilever truss bridge, composed of five spans on four piers, with a 54-foot wide roadway allowing two lanes for highway traffic and a railroad track in the center. Cost: $12 million.
1932   November. Elbert M. Chandler. A suspension bridge, with a 1,200-foot central span, a vertical clearance of at least 196 feet, a deck with a two-lane highway 24 feet wide. Cost: $3 million.
    December. Chandler's new plan calls for a 7,000-foot long steel cantilever bridge with a 1,200-foot central span and six spans of about 600 feet each (plus approaches). The bridge will have 10 piers, two of them on land, two out of water at low tide, and six piers in about 150 feet of water on either side of the steel cantilever.
1936   January. Pierce County Commissioners. A suspension bridge. Cost: $4 million.
    March. Proctor and Gamble, engineers, New York. A suspension bridge, 4,944-feet long, with a center span of 2,400 feet and two side spans of 912 feet each; with a west approach span of 720 feet. Cost: $4,089,091.

May. WSTBA submits an amended application to the federal PWA and applies to the RFC for a loan. The revised application includes a preliminary layout design by Clark Eldridge for the suspension bridge. The design represented a center span-to-width ratio of 1 to 66. Although this represented a dramatically narrower span than the 1 to 47 ratio of the Golden Gate Bridge, Eldridge's 25-foot deep stiffening truss would give substantial weight to the structure.


June. Public Works Administration grants funds for the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge, marking the culmination of over 14 years of community efforts. PWA award is conditional on the WSTBA hiring outside consultants for the bridge design. Consultant for the superstructure is Leon Moisseiff of New York; consultants for the substructure are Moran & Proctor of New York.

The design by Moisseiff becomes the 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge, "Galloping Gertie."

    June. Tacoma News Tribune re-publishes the 1929 bridge design by David Steinman. The bridge is described as 5,560 feet long, with an 18 foot roadway and two 4 foot sidewalks (26 foot wide deck) with towers 600 feet high.

July - August. Moisseiff completes revised drawings for superstructure of 1940 Narrows Bridge. Moisseiff used the same basic specifications for length of side spans and center span, and for width of roadway (center-to-center between cables). Moisseiff substituted a solid 8-foot plate girder support. His design changed the towers to the same height, 425 feet. Moisseiff also reduced the number of bracing struts joining the tower legs from Eldridge's 2 below the deck and 4 above to 2 below and 2 above. His Modernist-Art Deco design for the towers and anchorages set a new standard for suspension bridge aesthetics.



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