Wahkiakum County's Julia Butler Hansen Bridge is completed in August 1939.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 12/12/2006
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8025
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In August 1939, Wahkiakum County's Julia Butler Hansen  Bridge is completed. Located in Southwest Washington just a few miles upriver from the mouth of the Columbia, it is called the Puget Island-Cathlamet Bridge, and carries Secondary State Highway 12F (renamed in 1964 to State Route 409) across the channel between Cathlamet and Puget Island.  A ferry on the other side of the island carries traffic across the river's main channel to reach Westport, Oregon. The bridge will be renamed to honor Julia Butler Hansen (1907-1988), a state representative from 1939 to 1960, a U.S. representative from 1960 to 1974, and a major figure in the development of the state's highway and ferry system.

The bridge was designed by Lacy V. Murrow, R. W. Finke, and Clark H. Eldridge of the Washington State Department of Highways, and is the only bridge to span just part of the Columbia. Craig Holstine and Richard Hobbs describe the structure:

"When built it consisted of four steel spans, including a through-truss cantilever more than 400 feet long, nine timber-deck truss spans of 90 feet each, and 323 feet of timber trestle approaches on the Puget Island side" (Spanning Washington).

The timber trestle approaches were later replaced with concrete approaches. The bridge is 2,433 feet long and clears the river by 60 feet.

People marked the opening with a five-day-long celebration. President Franklin D. Roosevelt began festivities by cutting the ribbon remotely by telegraph from the White House.

Sources: Craig Holstine and Richard Hobbs, Spanning Washington: Historic Highway Bridges of the Evergreen State (Pullman: WSU Press, 2005), 100-101; Mark Bozanich, Highways of Washington State website accessed December 12, 2006 (http://www.angelfire.com/wa2/hwysofwastate/ColRivBr03.html).
Note: This essay was corrected on May 20, 2008.

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