The Murrow Bridge is the second-longest floating bridge on Earth at 6,620 ft; the longest is the Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge—Evergreen Point (2016, original: 1963), a few miles north on the same lake. The original Murrow Bridge opened in 1940 and was called the Lake Washington Floating Bridge. It was renamed the Lacey V. Murrow bridge in 1967. Along with the east portals of the Mount Baker Ridge Tunnel, the bridge is an official City of Seattle landmark.
The bridge was the brainchild of engineer Homer Hadley, who had made the first proposal in 1921. The bridge came about after intensive lobbying, particularly by George Lightfoot, who came to be called the "father of the bridge." The eponymous Lacey V. Murrow (1904–1966) was the second director of the Washington State Highway Department and a highly-decorated U.S. Air Force officer who served as a bomber pilot in World War II and rose to the rank of brigadier general. A 1925 graduate of Washington State College in Pullman, he was the oldest brother of CBS commentator Edward R. Murrow.
On November 25, 1990, while under re-construction, the original bridge sank because of a series of human errors and decisions. The process started because the bridge needed resurfacing and was to be widened by means of cantilevered additions in order to meet the necessary lane-width specifications of the Interstate Highway System. Hydrodemolition (high-pressure water) was used to remove unwanted material. However, the water was considered contaminated under environmental law and they needed to prevent it from flowing into Lake Washington. Engineers realized that the water could be stored in the pontoons of the bridge, which were over-engineered, so, the watertight doors for the pontoons were removed.
A large storm on November 22–24 (the Thanksgiving holiday weekend), filled some of the pontoons with rain and lake water. On Saturday, November 24, workers noticed that the bridge was about to sink, and started pumping out some of the pontoons. On Sunday, November 25 one pontoon filled and began to drag the rest down (because they were cabled together) causing a 2,790 foot section of the bridge to sink. The entire sinking was filmed and shown on live TV, and thankfully nobody was hurt or killed since the bridge was already closed for renovation. However, the disaster added $69 million in damages and delayed the opening by 14 months.
Cover image by SounderBruce is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Information courtesy of Wikipedia.