Tolls begin on new Lk. Washington floating bridge in summer - 1940

May 18, 2011

With the start - or rather, resumption of tolling on the 520 bridge a few weeks away, history buffs are recalling the opening of the first Lake Washington Floating Bridge, 71 years ago.

Skeptics predicted it would sink, and that tolling would never pay for the cost of construction. Sound familiar?

The first bridge opened to traffic on July 2nd, 1940. The price tag was $9-million dollars. (Compare that figure to the $4.6 billion currently budgeted to replace its sister bridge, the Evergreen Point/Albert D. Rosellini/Highway 520).

It would last 50 years until human error and nature brought it down. The new bridge opened the floodgates to the development of the Eastside.

First "floater" facts:

  • First concrete pontoon floating bridge in the world
  • 2nd longest concrete floating bridge (Evergreen Point Bridge -520 - is the longest)
  • Named for Lacey V. Murrow - 2nd Washington State Highways Director and brother of CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow.
  • Incorporated a bulge mid-span to accommodate large boats to pass
  • Once had a hazardous "reversible lane" system, with overhead lighted "X"s and green arrows.
  • Sank during a storm in 1990 due to a combination of human errors

Here's a video history lesson on the bridge, produced by the City of Mercer Island:

The Eastside Heritage Center is offering a public presentation, "A Modern Marvel: The First Lake Washington Floating Bridge", Thursday evening, May 19, 7:00 p.m. at the Winters House, 2102 Bellevue Way SE, Bellevue. Map here.