Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Collapsed I-5 Skagit River Bridge Was Built in the 1960s not 1955

Friday morning, about 5 minutes after I learned of the collapse of the I-5 Bridge over the Skagit River in my old hometown zone of Mount Vernon and Burlington, I have been perplexed  by an erroneous bit of information that seems to be being universally accepted, that being that this bridge was built in 1955.

I have seen this error in the Skagit Valley Herald, KOMO News online, the Seattle P-I, MSNBC, CNN, FOX News (which one expects to be wrong) and virtually everywhere I've read anything about the bridge collapse.

Including Wikipedia. Within the last 24 hours Wikipedia has updated their Interstate 5 in Washington article with the bride collapse info.

Plus, Wikipedia has added an I-5 Skagit River Bridge Collapse article, which, as you can see via the screen cap on the left, also says the bridge opened in 1955.

My nephew Jason has contacted the Skagit Valley Herald pointing out that 1955 is not the correct date. Part of a reply that Jason received this morning from the Skagit Valley Herald...

The Federal Highway Administration and the National Bridge Inventory Database show the bridge having been built in 1955. I suppose that doesn’t mean it started being used then, and I’m told it was not part of the Interstate yet at that point; that part came later as the rest of I-5 was constructed.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower championed America building an Interstate System. The construction of the Interstate Freeway System was authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956.


So, are we to believe that for some unfathomable reason a bridge to nowhere was built across the Skagit River in 1955, in anticipation of a new federal program being passed a year later, then awaiting the arrival of the Interstate Highway about a decade later?

I remember the I-5 Skagit River Bridge getting built. I was not old enough to remember anything getting built in 1955.

I remember the Ship Canal I-5 Bridge being built in Seattle, seeing the construction from the Aurora Bridge. This was a year or two after the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. And before the Interstate started being constructed in the Skagit Valley.

This repeating misinformation that the Skagit River I-5 Bridge was built in 1955 is as absurdly obviously wrong as if the Space Needle somehow came crashing down, with news articles saying it was built in 1951, when it was actually built in the early 60s, completed by the opening of the World's Fair.

I've talked to many people who remember this bridge getting built, and that construction taking place in the 1960s, not the 1950s, let alone a year before the federal act that brought about the Interstate System was passed into law.


Skagit Valley Visitor said...

Well, I know you lived in the valley as a youth and eye witness testimony- in this case, multiple eyewitness events- is certainly more accurate than someone's broken down database.
Keep after this, Durango.

Real History Buff said...

The online Encyclopedia of Washington History agrees that Interstate 5 came to the Skagit Valley in the 1960s, not 1955.

"Many of its roads were graveled, though the Pacific Highway built by the Federal Government in 1915 had a "hard-surfaced" road. It came up from the Mexican border in Calexico, California via Seattle. The name changed to US Highway 99 in 1926. In those days it took several hours to come and see the sights of Skagit County and the flats. In the 1960s Interstate-5 replaced 99, sometimes going over the old road, other times paralleling it. The new freeway brought more people to the valley."

Anonymous said...

The huge flood of 1955 occurred on November 4th, absent a freeway bridge. Maybe it was constructed in December of 1955? Odd time of year to build a bridge, however the Skagit Herald is rarely wrong, nor is our nations databases.