Columbia River Crossing: What About the Old Bridge?

Postcard of Original Interstate Bridge - from the Bosco-Milligan Foundation Collections

Yes,  it is regularly overloaded with traffic, but it seems that lost in all of the discussion about replacing the old Interstate bridges with a new “Columbia River Crossing” is the fact that the oldest of the two existing bridges is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is, in fact, a pretty historically significant structure that thus far in public discussions has been given little attention.

Opened in 1917, the bridge was designed by Waddell & Harrington of Kansas City, notable for also designing the Steel and Hawthorne bridges.

So, what should be done with the historic bridge? Should it simply be demolished to make way for a new CRC ? Perhaps it could be re-purposed for bikes, pedestrians and/or light rail?


Filed under Historic Preservation

3 responses to “Columbia River Crossing: What About the Old Bridge?

  1. Thank you for raising an important question! I don’t think there’s been any consideration of how the original bridge could be kept in service for rail or bike travel – which would offload the new bridge and perhaps trim a little cost!

    Is the original bridge still structurally sound enough to be kept in service?

  2. Fred Leeson

    Interesting thought, Val! We need to remember that the original bridge was built for streetcars. Perhaps the original bridge becomes the light-rail/bicycle/pedestrian bridge and the new monstrosity handles cars and trucks. In all the blather about the new bridge, I’ve never heard talk of any structrual problems with the old one(s) — the issue is strictly capacity, I believe.

    Also, recall that originally there was only ONE bridge…I believe the twin was added in 1958, or so. So saving one of the two is an interesting thought.

  3. Holly Chamberlain

    The supplemental bridge alternative considers retaining the current bridge, which would carry northbound car traffic, bicycles, and pedestrians, and building a new span downstream which would carry southbound traffic and High Capacity Transit (either fast buses or light rail).

    All of the different alternatives’ potential effects on cultural resources can be found in the CRC Draft EIS at:

    The Historic Built Environment Technical Report which informs the EIS can be found at:

    The newer of the existing spans (the 1958 one) was nominated by the state of Washington DOT to the National Register in about 2007, along with many other bridges throughout the state of similar vintage. They were not accepted by the Keeper.

    For an historic photo of the bridge, go to

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