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Ebey Slough Bridge (1925-2012)
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The Ebey Slough Bridge in Snohomish County is one of four bridges built between 1925 and 1927 to link Everett and Marysville and complete the last section of the Pacific Highway in Washington state. Upon their completion, motorists could for the first time drive on one road through Western Washington from the Oregon border in Clark County to the Canadian border in Whatcom County. The bridge crosses the northernmost of four waterways that have complicated travel between the two towns since the earliest days of white settlement. Because the slough is used by boats and barges, the Ebey Slough Bridge is a swing span that rotates on a mid-slough pivot to clear a channel for vessels. Although the completion in 1969 of Interstate 5 between Everett and Marysville made the old route less essential, it still carried a large number of vehicles. But the Ebey Slough Bridge was designed for a simpler time; it could accommodate only two lanes of traffic and one narrow pedestrian walkway. The bridge stopped opening for floating traffic in 2010, and in 2012 it is to be replaced by a modern, fixed-span, four-lane bridge with expanded sidewalks and a bike lane. When the new bridge is completed, the old bridge will be demolished. As one of the critical links in the original Pacific Highway and one of only four remaining swing bridges in Washington state, its passing is a matter of historical note.
The Snohomish River Estuary
Had it not been for water it seems likely that the nearly adjacent
cities of Everett and Marysville would have developed as one large urban
center. However, at the time the two towns were settled in the late
nineteenth century, getting from one to the other could be an ordeal. Although
separated by just a few straight-line miles, direct travel between them entailed
the crossing of a major river, three non-trivial sloughs, and acres of boggy marshland
laced with lesser waterways. Instead of growing together, the two towns grew
separately, Everett to the south and Marysville to the north, each stymied geographically by the Snohomish River and its estuary.
The Snohomish River is formed by the confluence of two
others, the Skykomish and the Snoqualmie, which flow out of the Cascade
Mountains to the east. The rivers support significant fish runs, including chinook, chum, and pink salmon; steelhead; and bull trout. As the Snohomish
approaches Puget Sound, it turns north and divides Port Gardner Peninsula (on
which most of Everett sits) from the land to the east. After reaching the top
of the peninsula, the river turns west to empty into Port Gardner Bay.
major sloughs that branch off from the river wind through a marshy area
called the Snohomish River Estuary. Between the river and
Union Slough lies Smith Island; between Union Slough and Steamboat Slough,
Spencer Island; and between Steamboat Slough and Ebey Slough, North Ebey
Island. The entire system drains nearly 1,980 square miles of the western
Cascades, yet itself occupies only about 19 square miles. Even at that, it is the second
largest river basin on Puget Sound, after the Skagit.
Ebey Slough was named after the first permanent white settler on Whidbey Island,
Colonel Isaac Neff Ebey (1818-1857). His connection with the Everett-Marysville area was
rather incidental. During the Northwest Indian War of 1855-1856, Ebey mustered a
group of volunteer soldiers in Port Townsend and led them up the slough that
bears his name to scout and to establish an outpost. The small
fortress, called Fort Ebey, was abandoned within a year, and Colonel Ebey did
not last too much longer. On August 11, 1857, he was beheaded at
his home on Whidbey Island by Kake Indians from Canada, in retaliation for a United States naval attack on
their tribe that had killed 27 Natives, including a chief.
Ebey Slough is the longest of the three major sloughs in the
Snohomish estuary. It starts at a point considerably south of today's east-west
State Route 2 (also known as U.S. 2) and meanders its way north, turning west near
what is now the southern city limit of Marysville and eventually emptying into Port Gardner Bay. It appears that Ebey Slough
was not a usable waterway in the earliest days of white settlement. A
government report from 1875 described it as "unfit for navigation,
containing several jams, and being very narrow and crooked in places" (Annual
Report of the Chief of Engineers).
This was to change, however. In 1891, a state engineer
provided this contrasting description of the slough, and noted the progress
being made in the young town of Marysville on its north bank:
"Marysville is apparently a thrifty town of four
hundred inhabitants, sitting on Ebey Slough, about two miles above its mouth.
Ebey Slough is a tidal estuary, about four or five hundred feet wide, with low
banks and deep water between the same. It is eight miles long ... and empties
into the sound just north of the mouth of the Snohomish River. It is navigable
to Marysville for all classes of boats usually engaged in the coasting traffic
on Puget Sound. At Marysville there are two wharves, several warehouses, and an
expensive drawbridge carrying the tracks of the Great Northern Railway across
Ebey Slough ... . These lands are productive in the highest degree, and
Marysville must become an important shipping point for their products" (First
Report of the Harborline Commission ...).
It was this navigability that made bridging the slough a challenge.
The Great Northern Railway at great expense had built a drawbridge to run its line into Marysville in 1891. Whatever
was built for vehicles would similarly have to allow for the slough's
commercial traffic. This was a significant obstacle that would have to be
overcome if Marysville and Everett, but particularly Marysville, were to
The Towns: Everett
Before the arrival of white settlers, the Snohomish Indians
lived where Everett now is, and they had been there for centuries. Their main village,
Hibulb (sometimes "Hebolb"), was located at the northern end of what is now called Port Gardner
Peninsula (it is less commonly referred to as the "Everett
Peninsula"). In 1792 the British explorer, Captain George Vancouver (1758-1798), landed
on a beach south of the village, claimed the area for his king, named the bay
Port Gardner after one of his party, and left. It would be well more than 80
years before other non-Natives showed up in any significant numbers.
The 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott created a reservation for the
Tulalip, Snohomish, and several other upper-Puget Sound tribes on land north of the river,
and most of the local Natives were relocated there. This opened up the areas
south of the river and east of the reservation (whose current eastern boundary
is marked by Interstate 5) to white settlement. But there was no immediate land
rush -- most of the first non-Natives who showed up were more interested in logging
there than in living there. What could have been homesteads became
sites for lumber camps, and when the trees got sparse the loggers moved on,
leaving behind scarred and barren landscapes.
The first permanent white settler in what would become
Everett appears to have been a Massachusetts carpenter named Dennis Brigham,
who arrived in 1861 and homesteaded 160 acres on the shore of Port Gardner Bay.
But further growth would be slow in coming, and by the time of the 1870 federal
census the white population of all of Snohomish County numbered less than 600, almost all of whom lived farther inland.
Population growth remained slow, and it was not until 1890
that the first plat for the town of Everett was filed by brothers Wyatt and
Bethel Rucker. In that same year, the Everett Land Company was formed. The
company, and the town, were named "Everett" after the son of one of
the investors, Charles L. Colby. Other well-known participants were John D.
Rockefeller (1839-1937) and Henry Hewitt (1840-1918), a Tacoma industrialist. Their concept was to use
mostly East Coast money to make Everett into a planned industrial community, a
"Pittsburgh of the West" that would exploit the rich mineral and
timber resources of the region ("History," Everett Golf and Country
By the time of the 1890 census, Snohomish County's
population had grown to 8,514, a nearly 500 percent increase over the 1880
count, but most still did not live in Everett. In fact, as late as July 1891
the entire population of the Port Gardner Peninsula was estimated to be
"about 35" ("Chronology of Historic
Dates for the Everett Area"). This was to change rapidly; in that
year alone, investors started building a nail factory, barge works, a paper
mill, and a smelter in the new city. The townsite was marked off
and lots for homes were graded and prepared for sale. A broad avenue, named after Henry Hewitt, was
cut from the west bank of the Snohomish River across the entire peninsula to the
shore of Point Gardner Bay. In the ensuing months, wharves were built, hotels
went up, and businesses and stores of all kinds began to appear. In 1893, Everett's
citizens voted to incorporate their town, which had quickly grown to several
The Towns: Marysville
To the north, across the river and sloughs, Marysville was
also gestating. According to Thomas Francis Comeford (b. 1869 or 1870), a son
of the town's founder, the first American non-Natives to live in the area were "Benj.
F. Stafford, L. L. Ireland and a Mr. Thomas, who came to the place where Marysville
is now situated in 1870" (Comeford, "Marysville, Washington").
Marysville got its formal start as the inspiration of James
P. Comeford (1833-1909), who ran a trading post on the Tulalip Indian
Reservation and was the U.S. Indian agent there for several years in the 1870s.
By 1875 there were 18 lumber camps on and near the mouth of the Snohomish River,
and Comeford traded with them all, and with the Indians as well. He had the
market pretty much to himself, and he prospered.
Almost since his arrival in 1871 or 1872, Comeford had his
eye on some partially logged-off land east of the Tulalip Indian Reservation,
and in 1874 (some sources say 1878) he bought 1,280 acres there for $450 from
Stafford, Ireland, Thomas, and Captain William Renton (1818-1891), for whom the
city of Renton is named. Comeford ran the Tulalip trading post for another
three years, during which time he logged the remaining saleable timber from the
land he had bought and made plans for a town he would call Marysville, in honor
of his wife, Maria (1846-1904).
Comeford gave Marysville some of the trappings of a town
before it really was one. He built a store, a hotel, and a warehouse, and he
put up a dock on Ebey Slough at the foot of what he called Front Street. He
managed to get an official post office established there in 1878 or early 1879
by having some Indian friends sign Western names to a petition asking the government
for a charter. He also created a school district in 1879, but it would have no
students until six years later, when a school was finally built two miles from
Comeford's little settlement.
Things picked up slowly but steadily in Marysville during
the 1880s. Comeford built a second hotel, opening it with great fanfare on July
4, 1883. He sold off some of his properties in 1884, and the following year the
town's first plat was filed by one J. Morris, with land dedicated for
public streets and amenities by James and Maria Comeford. By 1890 the town had
four sawmills, three stores, two hotels, its own schoolhouse, a saloon, and 31
houses. What it didn't have was a reasonable way to get from there to the
population centers to the south.
You Can't Get There from Here
While small ships and barges could travel up and down Ebey
Slough between Marysville and Everett, someone trying to go directly overland
between the towns faced an arduous trip. Heading south, Ebey Slough first had to be crossed, followed by Steamboat Slough and Union Slough. After that, the Snohomish River stood in the way. To avoid these perils, a crude road was cut that skirted the entire delta region on the east, running south to the crossroads at Cavelero's Corner (on today's State Route 2) before cutting west to bridges over the southern end of the Ebey Slough and across the Snohomish River. This roundabout way added
more than five miles to a trip between the two towns, and the low-lying dirt road
was often underwater and impassable for days or even weeks at a stretch.
As both Everett and Marysville prospered (albeit with
occasional setbacks), their need for connections to other cities and towns increased. There were
population centers to the north, such as Anacortes, Mount Vernon, and Bellingham, that
were difficult to reach from Everett. There were even larger towns to the
south, such as Seattle and Tacoma, that were equally difficult to reach from
Marysville. These urban centers provided large markets for the timber, minerals,
and agricultural products the region was producing in ever greater amounts, and
the Snohomish River and its three major sloughs were simply in the way.
The Great Northern Railway track had reached Everett and was
run through the center of Marysville in the fall of 1891, and in 1893 the
Everett-Monte Cristo Railroad was completed, linking the city to the mines in
the eastern part of Snohomish County. From Everett, one could travel east or
south with relative ease. But even at the dawn of the twentieth century, direct
travel between Marysville and Everett, which were just a few miles apart in a
straight line, remained uncommonly difficult.
Other cities and towns, from Vancouver on the Columbia to
Blaine at the border with Canada, were also growing, and the age of the
internal combustion engine was nigh. Highways would offer a more flexible method
of transportation than the trains could provide, and late in the first decade
of the twentieth century the state began to turn its attention to creating a
network of all-weather roads that would lace together Washington's scattered communities.
Of these, the grand Pacific Highway, destined eventually to run from Canada
to Mexico, would take pride of place as State Route 1.
The Pacific Highway, State Route 1
The state of Washington organized its first Highway
Department in 1905, but some of the strongest advocacy for what would become
the Pacific Highway came from outside of government. Although a highway running
the entire length of the American West Coast was no doubt inevitable, it was a
group of early automobile enthusiasts who really pushed the plan. On September
19, 1910, at the Alaska Club in downtown Seattle, the Pacific Highway
Association of North America was born. As explained in the The Seattle Daily
"The new association will have as its principal object
the promotion of the construction of an international highway along the Pacific
Coast from Canada to Mexico. There is already a strong sentiment for this road,
and the organization perfected last night is merely for the purpose of
procuring concerted action in pushing the project" ("Autoists
Organize Highway Association").
But building highways was an expensive proposition. In the
early years, the cost was born primarily by the counties, with the state
contributing minor amounts, primarily for surveying and engineering services. The
Federal Aid Road Act, passed in 1916, marked the first major investment of
federal funds into highway construction, and the Pacific Highway was one of the
first to benefit, although the contributions were relatively minor at first. The
slow progress toward building Washington's portion of the envisioned
"international highway" can be loosely traced through its state
The state legislature was actually slightly ahead of the Pacific
Highway Association, although its focus was necessarily limited to Washington. The
first legislative venture into a possible north-south highway, passed in 1909,
was general and wide-ranging. The legislature authorized a study to determine
the "feasibility and utility" of various proposed state roads,
"A north and south trunk road beginning at the city of
Blaine in Whatcom County; thence southerly by the most feasible route through
the principal cities of the sound to the city of Vancouver in Clark
County" (1909 Wash. Laws, ch. 51).
the focus was narrowed somewhat, and funds were allocated by the legislature
for the "survey and construction" of "the Pacific Highway
between the north line of King County and Bellingham" (1913 Wash. Laws, ch.
63). In 1915 another appropriation for the Pacific Highway's "survey and
construction" was made, allocating nearly $150,000 out of a total roads budget
that year of nearly $2 million. (1915 Wash. Laws, ch. 53). Also in that year,
the legislature for the first time clearly stated its ambitious plan for the
entire Pacific Highway route through Washington, describing it as:
highway starting at the international boundary line at Blaine, Washington;
thence southerly by the most feasible route through the cities of Bellingham,
Mount Vernon, Everett, Seattle, Renton, along the easterly side of the White
River Valley through Kent, Auburn, Tacoma, Olympia, Tenino, Centralia,
Chehalis, to the southern boundary line at the city of Vancouver, to be known
as the Pacific Highway" (Remington and Ballinger, Sec. Section
Then came the details, and they took a little longer. In 1919, the road situation between
Everett and Marysville was for the first time specifically addressed when the legislature passed an act to "locate the Pacific Highway between the city
of Everett in Snohomish County and the city of Marysville in said county, and
directing the state highway department to survey and definitely locate the same"
(1919 Wash. Laws, ch. 57). In the 1921 session (the legislature met only every
two years until 1969) the Everett-to-Marysville link found no mention, but it was in that year that Washington imposed its first tax on the sale of gasoline,
with the proceeds dedicated to highway funding. Also in 1921, the Federal
Highway Act was passed, which would provide up to one-half the cost of building
highways that were "interstate in character" (That Ribbon of
Highway). The Pacific Highway qualified, the money flowed, and progress quickened.
purse strings loosened considerably in 1923, with an allocation for the
Everett to Blaine stretch of $370,000 (1923 Wash. Laws, ch. 178) and the additional
amount of nearly $150,000 devoted to the entire Seattle-to-Blaine run (1923 Wash.
Laws, ch. 120). During the same session, the highway's route was somewhat
redefined and it was given the prestigious designation of State Route 1 (1923
Wash. Laws, ch. 185).
Work on the Pacific Highway was done in a piecemeal but not random fashion, with various segments of the road being opened while others were either still under construction or not yet
begun. By 1923, however, most of the route was completed, and on September 4 of
that year what was called "this last stretch of the Pacific Highway" was
inaugurated at the border crossing at Blaine, with a crowd estimated at 60,000
in attendance ("Thousands Jam Blaine Portal"). The popularity of the highway was evident -- cars were lined up for miles on either side of the border,
and more than 500 cars an hour, as many as inspectors could handle, passed
through the crossing that day. Many drivers made the trip for the sheer joy of
doing so, driving into the other country, turning around, and driving back.
aside, the section of the highway at Blaine was, of course, not the the "last
stretch of the Pacific Highway" in Washington. Perhaps saving the hardest
for last, the road builders finally turned their attention to the remaining missing
link, a road that would span those few water-riven miles that still separated Everett and Marysville.
The plan for the actual "last stretch" of State
Route 1 called for four bridges between Everett and Marysville, each to span one
of the intervening waterways. Separately, they would accomplish little more
than joining waterlogged islands, but taken together they would link the two
cities with an all-season road, cut nearly six miles off the roundabout route that
ran down the eastern edge of the delta, and truly complete the Washington
portion of the great Pacific Highway.
The financial floodgates for highway construction opened in
earnest in 1925, in which year the state legislature allocated $14,674,500 to
finance road construction through March 1927. On June 10, 1925, contracts
totaling nearly $1 million were awarded for the construction of the four
bridges needed to connect Everett and Marysville. The scope of the project was
described in The Seattle Daily Times:
"The first bridge will cross Ebey Slough, having a
290-foot swing span and concrete approaches 400 feet long. The second crosses
Steamboat Slough, having three steel spans, including one 290-foot swing span,
and concrete approaches, making a total length for this bridge of 788 feet. The
third bridge crossing Union Slough will be a concrete viaduct 580 feet long and
the bridge across the Snohomish River will be 2,679 feet long"
("Washington Spends Millions on Fine Roads").
There was some grumbling over the cost by those who would rarely if ever need to get from
Everett to Marysville. This was countered in an article in an engineering trade
publication that prepared a rough financial cost/benefit analysis.
It concluded that, at a cost of eight cents per mile and an anticipated 2,500
vehicle trips per day, "the entire cost of building the cut-off would be
paid off by the net saving in a little less than four years" (Engineering
News-Record). Whether or not anyone was persuaded by these numbers, the
allure of the Pacific Highway, and the longstanding needs of Everett and
Marysville, ensured that the project would go forward.
Work on the bridges began promptly, and all were completed
by early 1927. All that remained was to pave the stretches of road that would
link them, and the approaches in both Everett and Marysville. Contracts for
this work were let in April 1927. Paving started in Marysville on May 24 and
moved south. By June 2 the pavers had crossed the Ebey Slough Bridge and were
laying down pavement at the rate of about 400 feet a day. By June 12 they had
reached Steamboat Slough, and the contractors moved their base of operations
from Marysville to Everett and started working north across the Snohomish River
and Union Slough. The last pavement was put down on July 23, 1927, eight days
ahead of schedule. The cut-off was finished, at a final total cost of
Although the completion of this last link on the Washington
portion of the Pacific Highway was almost universally welcomed, it marked an
especially important milestone for Marysville, which finally was joined by a good road to the larger population centers to the south. Over the years, Marysville had become a major producer of
strawberries and fashioned itself "the Strawberry Capital of the World" (a
designation, it must be said, that was also claimed by several other American
cities). The bulb and cut-flower business was also booming, and a direct road
link south was seen as an unmixed blessing. In an article in The Seattle
Daily Times the secretary of the Marysville Commercial Club, W. S. Myers,
could barely contain his enthusiasm:
"The distance from Seattle to Marysville runs 42½ miles
on the speedometer. Via the cutoffs, this would be 31½ miles. 'Just a nice
drive of an hour,' exclaimed Mr. Myers, predicting that Marysville will see
many more folks from Seattle as well as from Everett.
"'We have every advantage here for a family to live
economically and happily,' he said. 'There will be nothing to prevent men from
working in Seattle and living in Marysville. People are moving from California
to Marysville'" ("Cut-off to Bring Marysville Nearer").
The Marysville-Everett cut-off (often called
by Everett residents the Everett-Marysville cut-off) officially opened on August
27, 1927, with a celebration that moved between the two cities. On a perfect
summer day a parade of automobiles left Everett at 10:00 a.m. and motored over
the new bridges. A ribbon crossed the road at the north end of Ebey Slough
Bridge on the southern edge of Marysville (the bridge is actually within the
city limits) and Governor Roland Hartley (1864-1952) snipped it with silver
scissors. Accompanied by fireworks, mill whistles, and sirens, the parade
continued to Marysville City Park for the normal complement of speeches. The
main dedication was given by Samuel Hill (1857-1931), the founder of the
Washington State Good Roads Association and an early and avid advocate for the
A year before this ceremony, in 1926, the
interstate character of the Pacific Highway had led to its designation as a federal highway, U.S. 99. It was by far the most important north-south artery in the west, and
at that time ran from the Canadian border to Sacramento, California. But the
original name, which best described the grand ambition of the route, never
really went away, and the segment between Everett and Marysville, now
designated State Route 529, is still called the Pacific Highway on many maps, as are other short sections up and down the state.
Of course, as has proven repeatedly true with
most highways, this one rather quickly proved inadequate for the volume of traffic
that it had to carry, and by the 1950s the bridges connecting Everett and
Marysville, all just a single lane in each direction, had become a serious bottleneck.
In 1954, additional bridges were built across the Snohomish River, Union Slough, and
Steamboat Slough, providing in effect separate two-lane roads for north and southbound traffic. Ebey Slough, however, did not get
an added bridge, and the one lane of travel it provided in each direction
continued to cause frequent backups.
On May 14, 1969, the last stretch of
Interstate 5 in Washington was opened. As with the Pacific Highway, the final
piece to be completed was the Everett-to-Marysville link, perhaps evidence of
the difficulty of building highways over marshland. The old Highway 99 crossed
the river and sloughs using first four, and after 1954, a total of seven bridges; I-5 needed 11. Motorists
could now travel from Canada to the California state line without stopping except for fuel or food (there were still one or two stoplights south of the Oregon-California border). In
1971, the Washington State Legislature passed RCW 47.17.752, renaming the Marysville-to-Everett cutoff "State Route 529" (1971 Ex. Sess. ch. 73, sec. 19).
And finally, on November 5, 2009, the Washington State Department of Transportation
designated SR 529 the "Yellow Ribbon Highway" in honor of all active
U.S. military personnel residing and serving in Washington and those deployed in
The End of the Old Ebey Slough Bridge
Even with the completion of I-5, the short
span of State Route 529 remained a popular highway. In the first decade of the
twenty-first century, it was still a primary commuter route for drivers
traveling in either direction between Marysville and Everett, and it carried more than 17,000
vehicles each day. In June 2006 the state Department of Transportation
began initial planning for a replacement, and on March 29, 2010, the project
was formally announced. A contract was awarded to Granite Construction Company
on June 16, 2010, and construction began on the three-year, $50-million project
the following month. On August 1, 2010, the Ebey Slough Bridge, after 83 years
of continuous operation, stopped opening for vessels.
The benefits a new bridge will bring are
obvious; what is perhaps less obvious is the value of what is being lost. The Ebey Slough Bridge spans more than a waterway; it also spans
almost the entire history of Washington's highway system to date. As part of
the last-completed link on the Pacific Highway in Washington, it helped knit
together the communities along the route's entire length and played a significant role
in the economic and social history of Snohomish County.
The bridge also is a fine example of the engineering,
mechanical, and bridge-building arts as they were in the early decades of the
twentieth century. It was designed by the Washington State Bridge Office and
built by the J. A. McEachern Company. In 1929, McEachern merged with the
General Construction Company and took its name. In 2011 that company celebrated
its 100th anniversary in business, itself a matter of some historical note.
Movable bridges are of three primary types, called
bascules, vertical lifts, and swings. Bascule bridges break at the middle, with
one or two leaves being raised by motors and counterweights to allow passage of ships.
On a vertical lift bridge, one entire section of the roadway is lifted as a unit between two towers, also with an assist from counterweights. On a swing bridge -- like that over Ebey Slough -- the whole center section of the roadway pivots on
a single point until the bridge deck is parallel to the course of the waterway it crosses, permitting vessels to pass on either side of the open span (although on Ebey Slough only one side of the channel was freely navigable).
In overall design, the Ebey Slough Bridge is what is
known as a Parker through-truss span, a variation on an earlier design called the Pratt truss. A through-truss span is a bridge on which traffic travels between and under the truss framework, which rises on both sides and is cross-braced overhead. A truss is a supporting structure made of straight lengths of steel bolted or riveted together in triangular or N-shaped configurations.
On a Pratt truss bridge, a design dating to 1844, the top longitudinal member of the superstructure (called the "top chord") and the beams carrying the roadbed (called the "bottom chord") were straight, level, and parallel. On a Parker through-truss bridge (often called a "camelback" because of its profile)
the top chord is either arched or polygonal (made up of sections that
meet at obtuse angles). The result is a lighter structure with no
sacrifice in strength, as there is less load at the two ends of the bridge and
more strength concentrated in the center.
On the Ebey Slough Bridge, the operator controlled the
span's openings and closings from a wood-framed enclosure suspended from the
bridge framework above the central pivot point, allowing unobstructed views of
both the slough and the roadway. The bridge rotated to open on a single,
lens-shaped bronze bearing. Because, when open, the mass of the bridge is
equally divided on either side of the pivot point, no counterweights are
necessary, and the polygonal top chord helps distribute the load evenly.
The Ebey Slough Bridge is of increased
historical interest because it is (or was until August 2010) one of only four operating swing-type bridges in the state, down from a
total of 16 in 1944. Given advances in engineering and the high cost of
maintaining and operating a swing bridge, it appears unlikely that any will be
built in the future.
As well as it has served the public over its 85-year life,
and as great as its contribution has been to the prosperity of both Everett and Marysville, the Ebey Slough Bridge has clearly had its day. As it has aged, maintenance and repair costs have increased. For all of its working life, an operator was needed to open it for passing vessels, then close it again to reunite the road. Most importantly, the venerable old structure simply can no longer handle efficiently the traffic volume, which has grown from an average
of 2,500 vehicles a day when it was built to 17,500 today (2012).
The new Ebey Slough Bridge is slated to be open for traffic
in both directions by the summer of 2012. When that comes about, the old bridge will have no further purpose and will become little more than a looming impediment to vessels going up and down the slough. Workers will then begin
disassembling its steel structure, pounding apart its three central concrete piers, and carting away its last traces, until only a memory remains.
History of Washington the Evergreen State, from Dawn to
Early Daylight, ed. by Julian
Hawthorne (New York, American Historical Publishing Company, 1893), 585; Zhaoqing
Yang and Tarang Khangaonkar, Hydrodynamic Modeling Study of the Snohomish
River Estuary: Snohomish River Estuary Restoration Feasibility Study
(Richland: Batelle Pacific Northwest Division, 2007, available at http://estuary.cs.wwu.edu/images/b/b3/Yang_%26_Khangaonkar_2007.pdf);
An Illustrated History of Skagit and
Snohomish Counties: Their People, Their Commerce and Their Resources, with an
Outline of the Early History of the State of Washington (Chicago:
Interstate Publishing Company, 1908); First Report of the Harborline
Commission of the State of Washington (Olympia: O. C. White, State Printer,
1891), Appendix, 115; HistoryLink.org
Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History," Comeford, James
Purcell (1833-1909) (by Phil Dougherty), and "Marysville -- Thumbnail
History" (by Phil Dougherty), and "Washington
State Legislature enacts the state's first gasoline tax in March 1921" (by
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This essay made possible by:
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)
Old Ebey Slough Bridge (1925), State Route 529, Marysville, 2009
Courtesy Washington State Department of Transportation
Old Ebey Slough Bridge (1925), State Route 529, Marysville
Courtesy Washington Department of Transportation
Diagram, Parker through-truss (camelback) bridge
Drawing Courtesy pghbridges.com
Graphic, (top) old Ebey Slough Bridge (1925), (bottom) new Ebey Slough Bridge (2012), State Route 529, Marysville
Courtesy Washington State Department of Transportation
Colonel Isaac Neff Ebey (1818-1857)
Courtesy Washington State Secretary of State
Marysville, looking west on Front Street, 1890s
Courtesy Reflections of Marysville
Downtown Marysville, 1913
Courtesy UW Special Collections (Neg. No. WAS1088)
Artist's view, Everett, with Snohomish River, Union Slough, Steamboat Slough, Ebey Slough on right, 1893
Courtesy Everett Public Library (Image No.0177)
Hewitt Avenue, looking west from Market Street, Everett, 1892
Photo by R. King and D. W. Baskerville, Courtesy Everett Public Library (Image No. 0050)
Hewitt Avenue looking east, Everett, 1920s
Pacific Highway between Seattle and Tacoma, 1916
Courtesy UW Special Collections (Neg. No. TA0029)
Car parked in giant red-cedar stump, Pacific Highway, Snohomish County, 1920
Photo by Darius Kinsey, Courtesy UW Special Collections (Neg. No. D. Kinsey 29K)
Bridges crossing Ebey Slough (from top) Interstate 5, Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad swing bridge, old Ebey Slough Bridge, Marysville, 2011
Courtesy Washington State Department of Transportation
Conceptual view, bridges crossing Ebey Slough following completion of new Ebey Slough Bridge and removal of old (from top: Interstate 5, Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad swing bridge, new Ebey Slough Bridge), Marysville
Courtesy Washington State Department of Transportation
Construction, new Ebey Slough Bridge, State Route 529, Marysville, 2011
Courtesy Washington State Department of Transportaton
Old Ebey Slough Bridge (1925) at left, new Ebey Slough Bridge construction (right), 2011, State Route 529, Marysville
Courtesy Washington State Department of Transportation
Construction, new Ebey Slough Bridge adjacent to old structure, State Route 529, Marysville, 2011
Courtesy Washington State Department of Transportation
Sign, State Route 529, Everett to Marysville
Courtesy Wikipedia Commons
Sign designating State Route 529 "Yellow Ribbon Highway" in honor of U.S. military personnel, Everett, November 2009
Courtesy Washington State Department of Transportation