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Published: Friday, July 30, 2010, 12:01 a.m.

Deception Pass Bridge still rock-solid after 75 years

  • The view of the east side of the Deception Pass Bridge looking south from Pass Island in February 2007.

    Michael O'Leary / Herald file

    The view of the east side of the Deception Pass Bridge looking south from Pass Island in February 2007.

  • Wooden "false work" is built to support construction of the steel trusses for the Deception Pass Bridge. The Pass Island concrete pier for t...

    Washington State Department of Transportation

    Wooden "false work" is built to support construction of the steel trusses for the Deception Pass Bridge. The Pass Island concrete pier for the bridge can be seen to the right in the foreground and the Whidbey Island pier in the background.

  • Washington State Department of Transportation 
No concrete trucks here. The concrete was made in small batches on site, then trucked to the bridge bef...

    Washington State Department of Transportation No concrete trucks here. The concrete was made in small batches on site, then trucked to the bridge before being dumped into a small rail cart and out to the bridge deck.

  • Crews pour the Deception Pass bridge deck. The concrete, delivered by rail cart, had to be shoveled into wheel barrows (called concrete buggies) befor...

    Washington State Department of Transportation

    Crews pour the Deception Pass bridge deck. The concrete, delivered by rail cart, had to be shoveled into wheel barrows (called concrete buggies) before being poured onto the bridge deck.

  • A fishing boat passes by the Whidbey Island piers on the south end of the Deception Pass Bridge.

    Washington State Department of Transportation

    A fishing boat passes by the Whidbey Island piers on the south end of the Deception Pass Bridge.

  • The Deception Pass Bridge nears completion.

    Washington State Department of Transportation

    The Deception Pass Bridge nears completion.

  • The Lady Washington fires black powder cannons as it passes beneath the Deception Pass Bridge in August 2002.

    Dan Bates / Herald File

    The Lady Washington fires black powder cannons as it passes beneath the Deception Pass Bridge in August 2002.

DECEPTION PASS -- When Wallie Funk was in grade school, he watched the Deception Pass Bridge being built. His class went on a school field trip in 1935 to get a look.
"We all had a little sack lunch and marched off to see it," said Funk, now 88, of Anacortes. "A grand tour on a hot spring day."
Seventy-five years later, the two-part span is still in great shape, officials say. A celebration marked the 75th anniversary in 2010.
The two parts of the bridge, over Deception Pass and Canoe Pass, were built in a little more than a year during the Great Depression, according to the Historic American Engineering Record. The bridge has never been rebuilt nor had a major overhaul, said Dave Chesson, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
"It's an incredibly sturdy bridge that was built on solid rock. As long as it's maintained, it should last well into the future," he said.
The bridge is inspected every two years, Chesson said, most recently in March 2009. Maintenance includes cleaning off rust and spot-painting the steel.
"At some point, it may become more expensive to maintain the (two spans) than it is to replace them," he said. "But we are not at that point now, and it is not in the foreseeable future."
The New Deal project was awarded in June 1934 to Puget Construction Co. of Seattle for $304,775. Wallace Bridge and Structural Steel of Seattle made and delivered the steel beams. The Civilian Conservation Corps helped build the park and roadway leading to the bridges. Cement was mixed in small batches and hauled out to the work sites in railroad carts, Chesson said.
"There wasn't a lot of machinery to help accomplish a lot of those tasks," he said.
Before the bridge, people were taken between Whidbey and Fidalgo islands by a ferry that held about four or five cars, Funk said.
"There was a little ferry system that was about as quaint as it could be," said Funk, who went on to become editor of the Whidbey News Times and South Whidbey Record from 1964 to 1989, and owner and editor of the Anacortes American before that. Later, in the mid-1960s, Funk recalls that thousands of people crowded the bridge when Shamu the orca was taken through Deception Pass after capture on the way to the Seattle Aquarium.
"Traffic was blocked for miles," he said. The bridge is one of the most photographed sites in the state, Funk believes. One day recently, he saw about 150 people out on the bridge taking photos. "The occasion was there was sunshine," he said.
Bridge facts
  • The Deception Pass Bridge was a New Deal project financed by the federal Public Works Administration, the Washington state Emergency Relief Association and county funds.
  • The spans were opened to traffic on July 31, 1935. The Canoe Pass Bridge spans 450 feet and is a steel arch design. The Deception Pass Bridge spans 900 feet and is a steel cantilever design.
  • Height from water to roadway: about 180 feet, depending on the tide.
  • Width of bridge deck: 28 feet, including two 11-foot lanes with 3-foot sidewalks on each side.
  • Total length: 1,487 feet (more than a quarter mile).
  • Traffic counts for 2009 show roughly 15,000 trips per day.
Story tags » FederalAnacortesDeception Pass State ParkWhidbey IslandTraffic

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