Moving Washington for 100 Years

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Shifting Gears: 1978 - 1990

Fred Redmon bridge
The graceful Fred Redmon bridge spans the Selah Creek near Yakima.
Hood Canal Floating Bridge
The western pontoons of the Hood Canal Floating Bridge were swept away by a storm on February 13, 1979.

As the 1970s drew to a close, WSDOT completed the innovative cablestayed Intercity Bridge between Pasco and Kennewick, undertook its first railroad line rehabilitation project, and resumed I-90 construction in the Seattle area.

Mother Nature reminded everyone who was really in charge when a storm sank the Hood Canal Floating Bridge in 1979. Then Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, causing millions of dollars of damage to local highways and coating much of Eastern Washington in ash.

The replacement Hood Canal Bridge and the I-205 Columbia River Bridge opened in 1982, followed in 1984 by the twin I-182 bridges in the Tri-Cities. WSDOT also introduced I-5’s first HOV lanes and
ramp metering in the early 1980s to address growing congestion.

Injunctions on I-90 were lifted and construction advanced quickly during the decade, despite the loss of the original floating bridge in a 1990 storm.

Also in 1990, passage of the State’s Growth Management Act revolutionized State and local transportation policies by linking them with land use and environmental quality. At the same time, passage of the High Capacity Transportation Act gave local governments and agencies in central Puget Sound long-sought authority to plan and fund a regional mass transit system.

Timeline: 1978 - 1990
  • In the first railroad line rehabilitation project in the West, WSDOT starts work on a 61-mile spur line between Metaline Falls and Newport in 1979.
  • West half of Hood Canal Floating Bridge sinks in severe storm on February 13, 1979.
  • Federal courts lift injunction on final I-90 construction west of I-405 on August 24, 1979.
  • Mount St. Helens erupts on May 18, 1980, wiping out much of SR 504 and temporarily closing more than 1,000 miles of state highways.
  • First of a new class of ferries, the Issaquah, is launched on December 29, 1980.
  • Duane Berentson becomes the second Secretary of Transportation on May 21, 1981.
  • First “FLOW” on-ramp meters are installed on I-5 on September 30, 1981.
  • Replacement Hood Canal Bridge opens to traffic on October 3, 1982.
  • Twin I-182 bridges open between Richland and Pasco on November 27, 1984.
  • Legislature creates High Speed Rail Commission to study statewide “bullet train” concepts in 1988.
  • Third floating bridge across Lake Washington (later named for Homer M. Hadley) opens on June 4, 1989.
  • Spokane River Centennial Trail opens in 1989.
  • Restoration of historic 1905 wooden covered bridge on Grays River is completed on September 28, 1989.
  • While under reconstruction, the original 1940 Lacey V. Murrow Floating Bridge sinks in a violent storm on November 25, 1990.

  2005 and Beyond