The Dream of a Bridge
In 1913, B. B. Horrigan, representative from Franklin County, appropriated money to investigate the feasibility of building a bridge at this location. Unfortunately, momentum for the project died after the survey was complete.
It wasn’t until 1919, when Charles G. Huber of the Union Bridge Company started a movement to complete the project, that the dream would finally become a reality. In just 13 months, he sold enough stock to finance the bridge. Union Bridge Company of Seattle was the prime contractor and M. M. Caldwell its lead designer.
Building the Bridge
Groundbreaking took place on the Pasco side on March 15, 1921. Pasco Mayor Herman Warden turned over the first shovelful of dirt. Work began in earnest in November 1921 and was completed on October 4, 1922, one month ahead of schedule and without a serious injury. Even the severe winter and high water that carried away the falseworks between two piers didn’t hamper the job.
The Pasco-Kennewick Bridge was a long-span, steel truss cantilever bridge. It was 3,300 feet long with 1,410 feet of steel and more than a million board feet of timber in the decking and approaches. The bridge cleared high water by 54 feet and the top chord of its "Petit through" truss loomed 185 feet above the water. (The "Petit" truss refers to the particular configuration of the struts that make up the truss. A "through" truss is tied both above and below the traffic.)
On October 5, Colonel E. H . Schulz of Seattle and Bertram D. Dean, engineer, inspected the bridge to ensure that it complied with building permits. After the inspection, T. O. Webster, secretary of the Benton-Franklin Inter-County Bridge Corporation, drove the first car over the bridge. P. J. O’Brien, superintendent of construction, and Charles G. Huber, general manager of Union Bridge, rode along.
Captain W. P. Gray occupied an honorary seat in the car. Captain Gray was closely linked with several events in the development of Franklin County. In 1884, he was the captain of the Frederick K. Billings, the first Northern Pacific Railway transfer boat to cross the Columbia.
The bridge opened for traffic on October 7, two weeks before the dedication. W. J. Honeycutt and several assistants collected tolls on the Pasco side for 24 hours a day. On the first day, the toll bridge made $237.60. Tolls of about $900 were collected in the first four days, not including the sale of coupon books and monthly passes. Cars paid 75 cents, bicycles paid 20 cents, and trucks weighing less than one ton paid $2.
Marching Bands, Speeches, Dances
A dedication ceremony had been planned for some time. M. J. Carrigan from the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, F. M. Scout of Kennewick, A. R. Gardner of Kennewick, and C. W. Johnson were on the central dedication committee. Pasco and Kennewick had city subcommittees. The committee sent invitations to the large daily newspapers in the state and to mayors of the cities.
The dedication festivities began with a luncheon at the Pasco High School gym, with more than 500 guests attending. Bertram D. Dean announced the day’s events. Meanwhile, residents and guests formed a parade in Kennewick, including floats from Finley, Benton City, Hanford, Prosser, and Kennewick, and marching bands from Pasco, Kennewick, and Walla Walla high schools. The Glee Club from Seattle also marched in the parade. Kennewick’s fire truck led the parade; it had put out a fire at the bridge’s approach a few weeks before the dedication. The mayor and city council members and a caravan of at least 500 cars took part in the parade. The parade crossed the bridge and stopped at Clarke Street in Pasco, where a podium was erected.
There Charles G. Huber presented the bridge on behalf of the builders. John M. Crawford spoke on behalf of the owners. Lieutenant Governor W. J. Coyle accepted the bridge on behalf of the state. H. O. Cooley, Manager of the Yellowstone Trail, spoke about the bridge’s significance in connecting a portion of this highway. The Yellowstone Trail was an unofficial highway route across the northern tier of the United States, promoted by an association of "good roads" supporters. In Washington the Yellowstone Trail followed much of the route of the Inland Empire Highway, one of the state's officially designated Primary Roads, which headed southwest from Spokane to Walla Walla and from there west through Pasco and Kennewick and on to Yakima and Ellensburg. (Other Primary Roads included the east-west Sunset Highway, linking Spokane and Seattle via a more direct route through Wenatchee, and the north-south Pacific Highway on the west side of the state.)
The speeches emphasized not only that a transportation gap had been closed, but that the bridge resulted from one of the most cooperative efforts in the state. Seventeen communities paid for the structure, some of which were located more than 300 miles away and wouldn't directly use it. Participating cities included Colfax, Dayton, Easton, Ellensburg, Grandview, Kennewick, Kirkland, Pasco, Pomeroy, Seattle, Spokane, Sunnyside, Tacoma, Waitsburg, Walla Walla, Yakima, and Lewiston, Idaho.
The parade re-formed and marched to the middle of the bridge, where Lieutenant Governor Coyle formally dedicated it by baptizing it with Columbia River water. He cut two yellow ribbons, a symbol of bridging the gap made by the river in the Yellowstone Trail. Following the ribbon-cutting, John W. Summers, congressman from the 4th District, gave a speech on national highways. James Allen, supervisor of Washington State Highways, had been scheduled to give a speech on highway building, but was too ill to attend.
Spectators then crossed the bridge and met at the First Methodist Church in Kennewick. There A. R. Gardner, toastmaster and reporter for the Kennewick Courier-Reporter, opened the official banquet. About 600 people attended. Frank Waterhouse, President of Seattle Chamber of Commerce, spoke about the Columbia River. Eleven-year-old Joe Siegfried had built a miniature bridge for the centerpiece, an exact reproduction made of copper painted black. A street carnival and free dancing on both sides of the bridge followed the banquet.
On dedication day, 1,837 cars crossed the bridge. Twelve thousand people took part in the festivities.
A Major Crossing
The Benton-Franklin Inter-County Bridge was financed by popular subscription, with no need for bonds or taxes. Up to that time, no other bridge comparable in size had been built entirely by popular subscription. This location on the Columbia River was seen as a major crossing area in the early transcontinental highway system. Washingtonians considered the bridge an integral part of building the economy of the state; in fact it probably could not have been built if it had not been perceived as such. It was the first time the east and west sides of the state joined to build something beneficial to both. Tolls were collected for nine years and were removed on July 1, 1931, after having totally paid for the original construction price.
In 1978, the Ed Hendler Intercity Bridge, a prize-winning cable-stayed bridge, was built alongside the Pasco-Kennewick (or Benton-Franklin Inter-County) Bridge, and ultimately replaced it.