Appleway Bridge (Old I-90 Bridge)

  • By Jim Kershner
  • Posted 5/24/2010
  • Essay 9435
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The Appleway Bridge, also known as the Old I-90 Bridge, spanned the Spokane River near Stateline, Idaho, on the Washington side of the Idaho-Washington border. It was built in 1939 at a cost of $118,259 and was part of the Appleway, the main highway route between Spokane and Coeur d' Alene, Idaho. This route was also known as Primary State Highway 2 (PSH 2), and US 10. The bridge continued to serve as the main route over the Spokane River between Spokane and Coeur d'Alene even after US 10 became designated as part of the Interstate 90 route, under the new federal interstate system. In 1977, a new limited access freeway portion of I-90, with a pair of new modern bridges, was completed just south of Appleway Bridge. After that, Appleway Bridge was transferred to Spokane County, and it continued to serve as a secondary route over the river, connecting East Appleway Avenue on the Washington side with West Seltice Way on the Idaho side. The bridge's condition deteriorated over the decades. In 2007, Spokane County imposed weight restrictions on the bridge, restricted it to two lanes and designated the bridge for replacement. In 2010, the county accepted a $6.2 million bid for a replacement bridge at the same location. Removal work began in late May 2010 and by August the Appleway Bridge was gone. The new bridge is expected to be constructed by the spring of 2012.

Spokane Bridge, Washington

When the Appleway Bridge was first proposed in 1937, it was considered a new modern improvement. "The new span will do away with two dangerous curves in the highway at the ends of the present bridge," said the Spokane Daily Chronicle ("Here's Where").

The area where the Spokane River crosses the Washington-Idaho state border had long been an important bridge site. The first bridge over the Spokane River was built in that vicinity in 1864. In fact, the little settlement there was known as Spokane Bridge -- there was even a post office called Spokane Bridge.

Several bridges were built near that site  -- and subsequently washed out -- until  in 1899 Spokane County built a more substantial bridge at Spokane Bridge. It had its problems, too, and it was closed to traffic only six years after it was finished. Another bridge, also called Spokane Bridge, was completed around 1911. This was the bridge with the dangerous curves that the Appleway Bridge was built to replace.

Appleway Bridge

The Appleway Bridge was built about 1,200 yards upstream of the old Spokane Bridge. (The Appleway Bridge is sometimes mistakenly referred to as Spokane Bridge, probably because the small settlement nearby continued to carry that name.)

The contractor was the Alloway and Georg Company of Spokane. They began work on January 10, 1939. It was a state project with a federal government subsidy. The $118,259 price tag included construction, engineering, and salaries. The project took 10 months -- 24 days over the contract date -- and was completed on November 2. 1939.

Art Deco in Concrete

According to the 2009 Spokane County mitigation document, the Appleway Bridge's specifications are as follows:

"It is a variable depth, concrete reinforced “T” beam structure, designed in the Art Deco style.

"The bridge is 512 feet in length and 55.1 feet in width. A four-foot sidewalk on the west side of the bridge is used for pedestrian traffic" (Creighton).

The report specifies that the bridge was constructed with seven individual spans, supported by eight bent segments (a bent section is a substructure that supports a span, also called a pier): "Each bent segment includes a rectangular concrete footing, with five square columns rising vertically and capped by a steel reinforced concrete cross member, which in turn supports the deck superstructure.  Between each span is an elongated parabola (arch); a series of stepped-back concrete Art Deco nuances are placed over the span seams, continuing up to the top of the wall railing.  Two deck hinges (for expansion) are located in the second and fifth spans" (Creighton). 

The side walls (railings) consist of solid concrete that overhang the superstructure by approximately four feet. The railing is topped by continuous run of miniature closed spandrels and arches, all of concrete.  

Eastern Gateway to Washington

The bridge features two inscriptions on the concrete rails at the westbound (from Idaho) approaches, lettered in Art Deco style:

The downstream rail reads: “Spokane River Bridge  Eastern Gateway to the State of Washington and the Spokane Valley.”

The upstream rail reads: “Spokane River -- Perpetuating the Name of the Indian Tribe Spo-Kan-EE -- Children of the Sun.”

The Old I-90 Bridge

The Appleway Bridge served as the main east-west route between Spokane and Coeur d'Alene for about 38 years. The route became known as US 10, and then, when the federal interstate highway system was established, it was used as part of Interstate 90 in the years before a restricted access freeway was completed over that stretch of the route. It is still sometimes referred to as the Old I-90 Bridge.

The freeway, on a route that crosses the river just south of the Appleway route, was completed in 1977. This new stretch of I-90 included two modern bridges, one for each direction of travel. The bridges and freeway were dedicated on July 28, 1977, immediately rendering the Appleway Bridge a secondary route with far less traffic than before. It was subsequently turned over to Spokane County.

The Appleway Bridge was used for the next 20 years for local traffic. In January 2007, county engineers discovered that the bridge had deteriorated badly. One of the metal hinge brackets between deck sections was cracked, which prevented the bridge from flexing when expanding and contracting. Concrete work had also deteriorated and pier sections had been undermined. 

County engineers immediately imposed weight restrictions on the bridge and narrowed it from four lanes to two lanes (which were each 11 feet wide with two-foot shoulders). Engineers were especially concerned because the nearby Harvard Bridge, built to roughly the same design, had failed in 1992. 

Deterioration Urgent

The situation became urgent later in 2007 with the construction of a large Cabela's outdoors store on the Idaho side. The store brought more traffic to the bridge, including many trucks and motor homes. New problems were discovered in November 2007; another metal hinge bracket had deteriorated. The county then restricted traffic to cars and small pickups only, and the county designated the bridge for replacement.

In April 2010, Spokane County commissioners accepted a $6.2 million bid for a new Appleway Bridge. Between May and August 2010 the old Appleway Bridge was removed. Work on the new bridge should be completed by spring of 2012.

Sources: John J. Creighton (Plateau Archaeological Investigation, Pullman),  "Appleway (Old I-90) Bridge, Spokane County Bridge No. 5515," June 2009, Level Two Mitigation Document on file at Spokane County Engineer's Office, Spokane, Washington; "Here's Where Highway Officials Propose New Bridge to Eliminate Curves," Spokane Daily Chronicle, April 4, 1938, p. 3; "Old Steel Span to Go On Block," Spokane Daily Chronicle, May 17, 1941, p. 6; "I-90 Span Dedication Due Friday," Spokane Daily Chronicle, July 26, 1977, p. 5; Doug Floyd, "States Linked Today by Freeway," Spokane Daily Chronicle, July 28, 1977, p. 5; John Craig, "Appleway Span in Worse Shape Than Thought," Spokesman-Review, November 5, 2007, p. A-7; John Craig, "Bridge Work to Start Soon," Spokesman-Review, April 11, 2010, p. B-2.
This essay was updated on August 24, 2010.

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