Jimi Hendrix Clara McCarty Captain Robert Gray Anna Louise StrongAnna Louise Strong Bailey Gatzert Home WWII Women Pilots
Search Encyclopedia
Facebook
Advanced Search
Donate Now! Book Store Featured Eassy Sponsor of the Week
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
6807 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donate Subscribe

Shortcuts

Libraries
Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search

Features

Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Everett
Olympia
Seattle
Spokane
Tacoma
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Cyberpedia Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Ebey Slough Bridge (1925-2012)

HistoryLink.org Essay 10023 : Printer-Friendly Format

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.

The three 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

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 prosper.

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 Club website).

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 thousand people.

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 Times:

"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 legislative history.

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, including

"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).

In 1913, 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:

"A 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 5878-2).

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.

The state 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.

Hyperbole 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 Marysville-Everett Cut-off

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 $1,250,000.

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 Pacific Highway.

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 foreign lands.

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.

Sources:
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 Kit Oldham), and "Roadway known as the Marysville-Everett cutoff opens on August 23, 1927" (by Phil Dougherty), and "Washington State Legislature enacts the state's first gasoline tax in March 1921 (by Kit Oldham) http://www.historylink.org/ (accessed January 27-January 30, 2012); "Chronology of Historic Dates for the Everett Area,"  Historic Everett website accessed January 28, 2012 (http://www.historiceverett.org/chronology.html); "Railroads," Northwest Power and Conservation Council website accessed January 28, 2012 (http://www.nwcouncil.org/history/railroads.asp); "The Everett & Monte Cristo Railroad: Hartford Eastern Railway," Mountain Loop Conservancy website accessed January 28, 2102 (http://www.mtloopconservancy.org/Mt.Loop/MLCFactSheetHartfordEasternRailway.pdf); "History of the Club," Everett Golf and Country Club website accessed January 28, 2012 (http://www.everettgolfcc.com/Default.aspx?p=DynamicModule&pageid=215541&ssid=58211&vnf=1); "The City of Everett," Naval Station Everett website accessed January 28, 2012 (http://www.cnic.navy.mil/Everett/About/History/TheCityofEverett/index.htm);  T. F. Comeford, "Marysville, Washington," The Coast: Alaska and Greater Northwest magazine, Vol. 16, No. 5 (November 1908); Remington and Ballingers Annotated Codes and Statutes of Washington, Section 5878-2 (1915); Grant's Bankers' and Brokers' Railroad Atlas," WSU Libraries Digital Collections website accessed January 29, 2012 (http://kaga.wsulibs.wsu.edu/zoom/zoom.php?map=wsu268);  "Mount Vernon Map, 1911," WSU Libraries Digital Collections website accessed January 29, 2012 (http://kaga.wsulibs.wsu.edu/zoom/zoom.php?map=topo011); Stephen Emerson, "Ebey Slough Bridge, Snohomish County, Washington," Level II Mitigation, September 2010, Short Report 1072, submitted to WSDOT, Agreement No. GCA 6454, Task Order AI, Archaeological and Historical Services, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, Washington; Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers to the Secretary of War for the Year 1875, Part II (Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1875), 798; "Autoists Organize Highway Association," The Seattle Daily Times, September 20, 1910, p. 9; "Thousands Jam Blaine Portal," Ibid., September 4, 1923, pp. 11, 13; "Washington Spends Millions on Fine Roads," Ibid., July 26, 1925, p. 8; "Cut-off to Bring Marysville Nearer," Ibid., March 20, 1927, p. 15; "Cutoff Celebration Was A “Red Letter” Day In Marysville,"  The Marysville Globe, August 25, 1927, p. 1; "State Route No. 529," 1971 Wash. Laws, Ex. Sess. ch. 73, sec. 19; "Local officials and the community help dedicate the SR 529 Yellow Ribbon Highway in Everett," Washington State Department of Transportation website accessed January 30, 2012 (http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/News/2009/11/05_SR529YellowRibbon.htm); "SR 529 -- Ebey Slough Bridge Replacement," Washington State Department of Transportation website accessed January 30, 2012 (http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr529/ebeysloughbridge/); "Propose Three Movable Span Bridges Within Two Miles," Engineering News Record, Vol. 95, No. 23, p. 928; "Celebrating 100 Years: General Construction Company," Pacific Maritime magazine website accessed January 30, 2012 (http://www.pmmonlinenews.com/2010/07/celebrating-100-years-general.html); Jill Livingston, That Ribbon of Highway (Klamath River: Living Gold Press, 2003); "Bridge Basics," PGHBridges website accessed January 29, 2012 (http://pghbridges.com/basics.htm); Bronlea Mishler, "Work is progressing on the new bridge on SR 529 at the Ebey Slough," Washington State Department of Transportation website accessed January 30, 2012 (http://wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/work-is-progressing-on-new-bridge-on-sr.html); 1909 Wash. Laws, ch. 51; 1913 Wash. Laws, ch. 63; 1915 Wash. Laws, ch. 53; Remington and Ballinger, Sec. Section 5878-2; 1919 Wash. Laws, ch. 57; 1923 Wash. Laws, ch. 178; 1923 Wash. Laws, ch. 120; 1923 Wash. Laws, ch. 185.


< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Special Suite: Bridges |

Related Topics: Roads & Rails |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License


Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You


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
Postcard


Paved section, 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


 
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org