State legislature establishes Washington Toll Bridge Authority in March 1937.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 1/19/2005
  • Essay 7214

In March 1937, the Washington State Legislature enacts a new highway code, which establishes the Washington Toll Bridge Authority. The Director of Highways is named the Chief Engineer of the Toll Bridge Authority.

To Build a Bridge

The Toll Bridge Authority was "empowered to establish and construct toll bridges, issue bonds for the financing thereof, and collect tolls for the retirement of financing obligations" (Seventeenth Biennial Report).

The first act of the Toll Bridge Authority was to purchase the Bremerton-East Bremerton Bridge connecting Bremerton and Manette, previously a privately owned toll bridge. The tolls generated on the bridge enabled the Authority to recover the purchase price within a year and a half. The toll was then lifted.

The Toll Bridge Authority next began construction of the Lake Washington Floating Bridge (or Mercer Island Bridge) and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Bonds on the bridges were to be paid off solely by tolls and did not constitute indebtedness for the state of Washington. 

The Lake Washington Floating Bridge opened in July 1940 with a toll, which was lifted in 1943 after bridge costs had been recovered. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which also opened in July 1940, collapsed during a heavy windstorm on November 7, 1940.


Seventeenth Biennial Report of the Director of Highways, 1936-1938 (Olympia: State Printing Plant, 1938), 29; Eighteenth Biennial Report of the Director of Highways, 1938-1940 (Olympia: State Printing Plant, 1940), 29, 39; James R. Warren, The War Years: A Chronicle of Washington State in World War II (Seattle: History, Inc., 2000), 63.

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