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Ed Hendler Bridge
Since its construction in 1978, the sweeping, cable-stayed Ed Hendler Bridge, connecting the cities of Kennewick and Pasco, has become an unofficial symbol of Washington’s “Tri-Cities” region. Arguably the most dramatic of seven large bridges that cross the Columbia River in the Tri-Cities (which also includes the city of Richland), it was the longest cable-stayed bridge in the United States at the time of completion and the first to employ a concrete deck. It stands out, in part, for its innovative engineering and its association with Arvid Grant—one of the Pacific Northwest’s most prominent structural engineers. Thousands of motorists and pedestrians use the bridge to cross between Pasco and Kennewick each day, and, indicative of the region’s pride, since 1998 the bridge has been illuminated at night.
The Ed Hendler Bridge replaced the much narrower Pasco-Kennewick Bridge, built in 1921. By the late 1960s, the Pasco-Kennewick Bridge’s 19-foot wide roadway was deemed inadequate to serve the daily vehicular traffic over the Columbia River. Planning for a new bridge began in 1971, and Pasco-based insurance salesman Ed Hendler was the head of a committee that helped secure its funding. Arvid Grant and Associates, in collaboration with the German firm of Leonhardt and Andra, were selected as the designers and structural engineers of the new project, and construction began in 1975. Their cable-stayed design was chosen, in part, due to its light overall weight, low approach grade, the fact that only a few large piers were needed in deep water, and its inexpensive cost compared to an equivalent size suspension bridge.
The Ed Hendler Bridge employs segmental, pre-stressed concrete girders suspended by cables made of straight wire bundles encased in polyethylene pipe. It features two towers to which 80-foot-wide by 27-foot-long concrete girders connected by epoxy are secured by cables. The concrete deck is 2,503 feet long, 1,790 feet of which are suspended by the cables. The main span is 981 feet, with a 60-foot-wide roadway flanked by sidewalks and railings.
Cable-stayed bridges date back to the seventeenth century, when they were built with chain links as supporting elements. Structural failure of several bridges in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries cast doubt upon their capabilities, and they were slow to gain widespread acceptance. However, advancements in concrete and polyethylene in the post–World War II era, resulting in greater stability, convinced German engineers to choose the cable-stayed design as a replacement for many bridges destroyed during the war. By the late 1970s, cable-stayed designs had begun to outnumber suspension bridges in popularity for new bridge construction worldwide.
Grant, considered a pioneer of cable-stayed bridge design in the Pacific Northwest, was a founding member and second president of the Structural Engineers Association of Washington. His design for the Ed Hendler Bridge won him “Engineer of the Year” in 1978 by the Washington Society of Professional Engineers. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan awarded the Ed Hendler Bridge with the Presidential Design Award, proclaiming that the bridge “is not just a great technical accomplishment, [rather it] is a work of art.”
Podolny, Walter, and United States Federal Highway Administration. “Cable-stayed Bridges: A Compilation of Papers Presented at Engineering Symposium, Cable-Stayed Bridges, Pasco, Washington, December 6-7, 1977.” United States Federal Highway Administration, Bridge Division, Structural Engineering Series No. 4. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Transportation, 1978.
Rubin, Debra K. “Cable-Stayed Bridge Design Pioneer Arvid Grant, 93.” Engineering News-Record, February 12, 2014.
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