The 1940 narrows bridge was built “primarily as a military necessity” to link mcchord airfield south of Tacoma and the Puget Sound navy shipyard in Bremerton. This important fact is often overlooked today.
Why Was the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Built?
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built in 1940 to connect the Kitsap Peninsula with the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. It was the third-longest suspension bridge in the world at the time and the largest in the United States. The bridge was designed by engineer Clark Eldridge, who the Golden Gate Bridge inspired in San Francisco. The bridge was intended to provide more direct access to the Puget Sound region for the growing population.
At the time of its construction, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was considered a marvel of engineering and modern design. The 4,260-foot bridge featured a double-decked approach with a roadway on the lower level and a pedestrian walkway on the upper level. The highway could accommodate two lanes of traffic, and the upper deck was designed to provide excellent views of Puget Sound and its wildlife. The bridge also featured a unique design that allowed it to move and sway slightly in response to strong winds, which was intended to help make the bridge more structurally sound.
Unfortunately, the bridge was not as structurally sound as engineers had anticipated. Just a few months after its opening, the bridge famously collapsed due to the aerodynamic forces of the wind.