Tacoma’s famous failed bridge, Galloping Gertie, has had more than its share of bad press since its spectacular collapse into the Tacoma Narrows 72 years ago.
On Saturday, it received some high-level praise.
At a ceremony at Tacoma’s War Memorial Park, the American Society of Civil Engineers officially declared the 1940 bridge and its 1950 replacement a National Civil Engineering Landmark, a designation also applied to such historic projects as the Erie Canal and the Alaska Highway.
“The 1940 and 1950 bridges represented both tragedy and triumph for civil engineers,” ASCE National President Andrew Herrmann told a small group gathered at the park for the occasion.
The first Tacoma Narrows Bridge became a classic lesson used to show the need for diligence and caution in the engineering process, Herrmann said. Its 1950 replacement, built on the foundations of the old bridge and still in service, is a demonstration of the ability of civil engineers to find solutions to difficult problems and put them into practice, he said.
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, and Kevin Dayton, Olympic Region administrator for the Washington State Department of Transportation, also made brief remarks at the ceremony.
A plaque presented by ASCE will be placed on permanent display at the park, which has a view of the 1950 and 2007 bridges.
The plaque notes that the 1950 replacement bridge used a more conservative stiffening element and other measures to ensure aerodynamic stability. The result, according to ASCE, was that the two bridges, in combination, became “a pivotal chapter in suspension bridge design and also a lesson for all engineers.”