Built in 1913 by the American Bridge Company and the International Contract Company at the cost of $514,000, the City Waterway Bridge (aka 11th Street Bridge) was designed by Waddell & Harrington predecessor firm to Hardesty & Hanover. The double-deck vertical lift bridge replaced an existing swing bridge on an adjacent site and has two 190-foot-long fixed spans and a 221-foot vertical lift span. The bridge’s truss spans and towers utilized 3 million pounds of structural steel. When the lift span is lowered, the clearance over high tide is 60 feet; in the up position, the clearance is an impressive 135 feet.
The lift span was erected at an elevation of 120 feet on falsework consisting of two wooden cantilever brackets that rested on the piers, allowing navigation to continue during construction. Traffic across the waterway was maintained using the old adjacent swing span to connect to temporary trestle approaches. The new bridge’s machinery consisted of four drums actuated through a series of gears by two street railway motors operating on 500 volts of direct current, each drum carrying two ropes.
Upon its opening, the mayor of Tacoma proclaimed to the assembled crowd of 10,000 people: “We of Tacoma should be proud of this grand structure. It is the widest of its type, one of the highest and the only one in America built on a grade.” The bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Currently known as the Murray Morgan Bridge, the landmark old bridge was rehabilitated by H&H in 2013 in a multi-award-winning project. For a summary of the rehabilitation, see here.
The City Waterway Bridge profile is part of H&H’s on-going celebration of our heritage as we approach our 135th Anniversary.