Fairfax Bridge (James R. O'Farrell Bridge) opens to auto traffic on December 17, 1921.

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 2/20/2005
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7259
On December 17, 1921, Pierce County opens the bridge over the Carbon River at Melmont and names it after County Commissioner James R. O’Farrell. The bridge crosses the river about three miles south of Carbonado and provides the first highway access to the town of Fairfax via the Carbon River-Fairfax Road (present-day State Route 165 running south from Wilkeson to Carbonado to Fairfax), and also provides another route to Mount Rainier National Park. The span cost an estimated $500,000 to build and is said to be the highest bridge in the state.

The bridge is a three-hinged steel arch, one of only two extant in the state in 2005. It is 494 feet long and this length consists of a 240-foot three-hinged spandrel braced rib deck arch, two 14-foot steel towers, and two timber trestle approach spans.

Until the bridge was built, residents of Fairfax could reach the outside world only by railroad or by pack train “through a roundabout route” (Tribune).

Sources: “Dedicate Road and Bridge Saturday,” The Tacoma News Tribune, December 16, 1921, p. 25; “Fairfax Secure on Highway Map,” Ibid., December 17, 1921, pp. 1, 2; Paul Dorpat and Genevieve McCoy, Building Washington: A History of Washington State Public Works (Seattle: Tartu Publications, 1998), 118; "Fairfax Bridge, WA-72," Washington State Department of Transportation website accessed on February 20, 2005 (http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/environment/culres/ bridges/bridge_pierce_072.htm).
Note: This essay was revised slightly on December 18, 2006.

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