1927-built Ebey Slough Bridge bid farewell

MARYSVILLE — Robert Rasmussen Jr. arrived home in 1946 from fighting in the Pacific in World War II and stopped off at the Ebey Slough Bridge, where his father was the bridge tender.

“He took me home to see mom,” Rasmussen recalled on Thursday while standing on the bridge, his eyes nearly welling up with tears more than 66 years after that happy day.

This was one of many memories of the Ebey Slough Bridge for Rasmussen, now 87, and three more generations of his family who were present on Thursday for a celebration marking the end of the span’s service.

Built in 1927, the bridge is scheduled to be taken down starting Monday. A $39 million bridge has been built alongside it to take its place on Highway 529.

“We come here today to say goodbye to an old friend,” Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring told a group of about 50 people. “It’s been a part of our downtown landscape for decades.”

The swing-span bridge, which opened sideways for boat traffic, was christened just before Babe Ruth’s New York Yankees won the World Series in 1927. On Thursday, Lawrence Garner of Marysville brought his restored Model T Ford touring car built that same year to the event.

Three other bridges were built across the flats between Everett and Marysville around the same time as the Ebey Slough Bridge, creating the final link in the highway from Oregon to Canada.

Marysville’s population in 1927 was less than 1,400, Nehring said. Now, Highway 529 carries 17,000 cars and trucks a day between Marysville and Everett. The old bridge is not up to seismic code and has been targeted for replacement for 20 years, said Lorena Eng, a regional administrator for the state Department of Transportation.

Half of the new, four-lane bridge is open to traffic while the other half will be used for equipment for dismantling the old bridge, said Joe Rooney, an inspector for the transportation department.

The bridge will be taken apart piece by piece, he said. The work is expected to take until early 2013 and the remainder of the new bridge will be opened to traffic at that time.

Robert Rasmussen Sr. worked for the highway department in Denmark before coming to America at age 19, his son said. Rasmussen Sr. was the Ebey Slough Bridge’s first bridge tender and continued to work there for decades. In the early days, the family lived in a farmhouse just southeast of the bridge and his dad rowed a boat to work, Rasmussen Jr. said.

Years later, the elder Rasmussen brought his grandsons into the wooden control room in the upper girders of the bridge to spend the night on graveyard shifts. Sometimes they helped their grandfather do the periodic car counts that were part of his job.

“We had two clickers, one for cars, one for trucks,” said grandson Leonard Stanton, 65, of Smokey Point.

They also would push the buttons that controlled the traffic arms that closed the bridge to auto traffic. The bridge itself was opened and closed with a lever.

Sometimes they climbed down below the car deck to crawl around on the bridge’s gears, said another grandson, Dennis Rasmussen, 63, of Bellingham.

A monument to the old bridge is being planned, said grandson Gerry Rasmussen, 65, of Lacey. A retired graphic designer for the transportation department, he’s working with the new bridge’s contractor, Granite Construction, the Department of Transportation and the Marysville Historical Society on the monument.

It’s expected to include part of the bridge’s concrete railing and a cornerstone with the 1926 date (when the concrete was poured) etched into it. The original stone was removed during some work on the bridge, so a stone from the other end will be used and have the date added, Rasmussen said.

Other features, such as old photos, may be part of the monument as well, he said. It likely will be located in Ebey Waterfront Park on the Marysville side of the slough.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

For more information on the Ebey Slough Bridge project, go to http://tinyurl.com/7k68d3l.

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