Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Little Tacoma History with Cambria Contracting

On July 1st, 1940 a bridge was opened to traffic in the town of Tacoma, Washington.  Five months later this bridge would tumble into the chasm between the Tacoma and Kitsap peninsulas, marking one of the more infamous moments in Tacoma history.

Since the 1890's there had been considerable interest in closing the gap between these two land masses, and while several railroad companies attempted to get the ball rolling on the project in the form of a trestle bridge proposition.  Before these plans could even so much as be reviewed Henry Ford began mass producing automobiles, changing the world in the process.  As America began to see a steep increase in the number of motor carriages on the road, it became clear that a commuter bridge would be necessary.

When embarking on the project hopes were high in Tacoma that the bridge could rival the modern marvel in San Francisco; the Golden Gate Bridge.  To do so a committee was formed and experts from all over the world were brought in to consult.  Finally after nearly a year of deliberation, the Federal Government had come forward with a costly, yet impressive bridge for the gorge.  The committee in Tacoma was more than ready to move forward, until Leon Moisseiff (Yes, THAT Leon Moisseiff) one of the leading men in the Golden Gate bridge construction came to town and announced that not only would his bridge could handle the stress, but would also cost three million dollars less.  As one would imagine this was a very appealing pitch for the committee to witness, and it came from a very reputable source.  Soon enough, despite some limited criticism from other experts, the Moisseiff bridge plan was chosen.  With construction beginning in a year, a noticeable buzz raced through the community.  Many of the citizens looked forward to having a feat of engineering as a local landmark.

Unfortunately, from the beginning something just wasn't right with the bridge.  As soon as the first suspension cables were being strung the bridge would exhibit a strange wobble, perhaps a wiggle, but in any event an item that should never shake was shaking.  While noticing this strange effect head engineers had faith in the plan that they had been given and continued to work towards completing the bridge.  This would prove a poor miscalculation.

The bridge eventually opened to traffic and was serviceable for nearly five months.  After four and a half months top engineers were brought in to study the phenomenon of the bridge still wobbling, moreso on windier days.  While this study was a good idea and performed with precision, it would eventually prove unnecessary.   Five days after the study was completed the bridge collapsed.  Taking with it the life of Tubby, a black male cocker spaniel, who was trapped in the back of the last vehicle to drive on the bridge.  Leonard Coatsworth was the driver of that car, he was able to crawl the 500 yards to safety from his vehicle, and is to be commended on his quick-thinking.

The bridge was nearly shorn in half and eventually had to be demolished in order for the bridge that stands there today.  Just another example of how it's always good to know about a great demolition firm.

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