Cable bridge between kennewick and pasco wa turns 40 years old

The elegance of the bridge's lines and the clarity of its structural behavior highlight the beauty of this useful structure in a way that can be appreciated by professionals and laypeople alike.

The praise was effusive, but so was the performance.

The cable bridge ushered in a new era of bridge construction in the United States. Every year, one or two such bridges are opened.

Tacoma built the 21st Street Bridge over the Thea Foss Waerway in 1997. Portland dedicated the Tilikum Crossing over the Willamette in 2015.

But the Kennewick-Pasco bridge was the first. It was both impressive and improbable.

Two small towns teamed up to bridge a major river with a structure that would get attention from a sitting president and one of the world's best-known architects. It was a far-fetched dream at best.

In 2016, the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. At 40 years old, it's about 10 years too young, but could be considered early for its exceptional contribution to engineering.

"We'd just need someone to nominate them," said Michael Houser, Washington's architectural historian.

A modest proposal

Grant may have designed it. But Ed Hendler, a Pasco insurance agent and former mayor, made it happen.

Even Hendler had to be surprised at the results of his decades-long search.

His original vision was modest, according to his son Jeff Hendler, who lives in Kennewick.

Hendler wanted to improve the existing green bridge, which was so narrow that vehicles took turns crossing and young drivers feared it.

By the time the larger, modern Pioneer Memorial Bridge, also known as the Blue Bridge, opened for service about a mile upstream in 1954, motorists hardly used the Green Bridge at all.

The green bridge, built in 1922, stands in the shadow of its replacement, Ed Hendler's cable bridge, which opened in 1978. The old bridge was demolished in 1990 after a bitter battle to preserve it failed. National Parks Service

Hendler realized that once motorists reached the highway, it was easy to bypass downtown Pasco and Kennewick in favor of Columbia Center.

Town centers suffered as a result. Hendler felt that modernization could give both a boost.

Nationally, the old bridges were put under the microscope. In December 1967, 47 people were killed when a bridge over the Ohio River collapsed. The disaster prompted Congress to create the National Bridge Replacement Program.

The deal was simple. The feds would pay 75 percent of the cost if local governments came up with the rest. The green bridge was an ideal candidate.

Hendler, chairman of the Inter-City Bridge Commission, sought federal funding while lobbying local governments to match it.

Initially, planners proposed a two-lane bridge next to the green bridge. Both would direct traffic in one direction. At the intersection of Interstate 82 near Umatilla, the old bridge is combined with the new bridge.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local port districts opposed the idea. They viewed the green bridge and its 13 piers as an impediment to navigation. The bridge should support four lanes on only two piers.

European bridge designer on a mission

Engineer Arvid Grant was commissioned by the Hendler Bridge Commission to find a solution to the two-pier bridge problem.

Grant was born in Latvia in 1920 and studied architecture and engineering in Europe before emigrating to the U.S. in 1951. He settled in Olympia with his wife and daughter.

Grant was tasked with bringing cable-stayed bridge technology to his adopted country.

Europe was in the throes of reconstruction after World War II. All the major German bridges had been destroyed. Cable-stayed bridges were built in its place. In the USA this technique has rarely been used.

These bridges have cables that extend from towers and are anchored to the decks below.

On its cousin, the suspension bridge, the bridge decks are held in place by vertical cables dangling from cables stretched between the towers. The Golden Gate and Tacoma Narrows are prominent examples on the West Coast.

Grant searched for the right place to build. Form should follow function.

And the Tri-Cities were already familiar with the concept. The 400-foot-long Kiona-Benton City Bridge was dedicated in 1957 with steel box girders and cable bracing.

Fight over money

Before Grant could build his bridge, Hendler had to raise the money. Bridge cost $30 million in 1978, about $120 million today.

Jeff Hendler recalled how his father cleared stubborn opposition.

At one meeting, the state highway director told Hendler he would get the bridge "over my dead body"."

Hendler stood up, folded his briefcase shut and asked the man where he wanted to be buried, the younger Hendler recalled.

The highway director was not present at the 1978 dedication ceremony. Its successor acknowledged the "adult discussions," according to the now-retired Jack Briggs of the Tri-City Herald.

"The reason you and I are standing here talking is because Ed Hendler made it happen for 11 years," Jeff Hendler said.

Kennewick and Pasco financed the local share with a series of bonds. The two towns also agreed to pay 50 percent of their share of gas tax revenues for 13.8 years – 7.080 dollars a month for Pasco and 9.800 dollars for Kennewick.

Construction begins

The contractor Peter Kiewit Sons' Co. from Vancouver began work in 1975. The Port of Kennewick, then headed by Art Colby, a former Kennewick city manager, allowed Kiewit to use Clover Island as a staging area.

Sue Frost was secretary-treasurer of the port at the time.

She remembers the parade of concrete trucks pulling onto barges to make the short trip to the construction site. For the bridge, 42.000 cubic meters of concrete needed.

In the middle of the construction Grant Frost offered a guided tour. The towers were finished. The bridge deck, which was a series of 300-ton sections of prestressed concrete, had not yet been installed.

Wooden planks stretched between the towers served as a platform for the workers. Thin cables served as railings.

Frost shed her fear of heights. The construction elevator rattled up a tower to the work platform, well above the river.

Frost took heart and got out.

"I walked to the other side, then turned around and walked back," she said. She was just pretending to enjoy herself.

Today, she is grateful for the memory and for Tri-City leaders like Hendler and Colby who created something special.

"The people who ran us felt that we should have something unique that would set us apart from others. I'm proud of it," she said.

The day after the dedication, Frost drove across the new bridge with her 10-year-old son, Matt Watkins.

Take it for granted

Today, Matt Watkins has Hendler's old job, mayor of Pasco.

Watkins was surprised to see the bridge enter its fifth decade. So did his fellow mayor, Don Britain of Kennewick.

The majestic cable bridge, which towers over the Columbia River and spans the stretch between Kennewick and Pasco, has welcomed visitors to the Tri-Cities for 40 years. It's officially called the Ed Hendler Bridge, after the late former Pasco mayor who spearheaded its construction. The bridge is one of the Tri-Cities' most recognizable landmarks. Tri-City Herald file

Ed Hendler died in 2001, but his son believes he would be happy to see "his" bridge taken for granted. This was the point.

"This was about easing traffic between two city centers," he said.

The test came in 1986, when the state closed the blue bridge for a six-month rehabilitation project.

The cable bridge took the load, which the green bridge could never have handled.

"I can't imagine the cable bridge not being there anymore. It is simply a part of our landscape," Britain said.

The bridge was renamed in Hendler's honor in the mid-1990s, a few years before his death. Jeff Hendler said his father was lured to Olympia by a ruse.

In the Senate gallery, he heard his name read aloud. He was pleased with the recognition.

Hendler's family scattered his ashes and those of his wife, Ivy "Pinkie" Glades Hendler, from the bridge. No one asked permission.

The cable bridge would also become the hallmark of Arvid Grant's career.

When he died in 2014 at age 93, the first line of his obituary recalled his Columbia River tenure.

The Structural Engineering Association of Washington named him engineer of the year in 1978 and inducted him into its Hall of Fame. In 1979, Civil Engineering magazine documented the project in exhaustive detail.

The bridge at 40

Hendler and the construction workers were ecstatic in 1978, to the point of exaggeration.

A "bridge boss" who had spent two years installing the cables boasted to the Herald that the bridge would stand forever.

Not quite. At 40 years old, the bridge is middle-aged.

As a human enterprise, it has an all-too-human lifespan. The Washington Department of Transportation estimated the expected lifespan at 75 years.

The department has owned the bridge since the early 1990s, when it took it over from the cities of Pasco and Kennewick.

Last year, a $2 million project repaired the deck, installed a waterproof membrane and repaved the bridge. reports that it was in "good" condition after a May 2016 inspection, with a sufficiency rating of 84.1.

The 2.500-foot span carries more than 16.000 vehicles per day. According to the Department of Transportation, it is "underutilized".

▪ Addendum to Green Bridge: The role that the Green Bridge has played in the history of the Tri-City cannot be overstated.

It was opened on 21. October 1922 opened and cost 480.000 dollars, which is equivalent to about 7.1 million dollars today. Before that, traffic across the river was handled by ferries. Pasco and Kennewick soccer teams chartered trains to get to their annual Veterans Day game.

Motorists paid 75 cents per vehicle and 10 cents per passenger for a one-way trip, which today equates to about $11 and $1.50, respectively.

Tolls were eliminated in the early 1930s. The event was celebrated like the Fourth of July, Floyd Hutchins told the Herald in 1979. He should know. He had collected the toll on the last day.

Pasco nurse Virginia Devine fought for more than a decade to preserve the old green relic after the cable bridge was built.

But the funding package and Army Corps concerns about shipping scuttled their efforts. After two local elections and a court ruling, the bridge was demolished in 1990.