40 for 40: Franklin County
Pasco-Kennewick Yellowstone Highway Bridge

By Holly Chaimberlain previous story | next | all stories

In 1981, Pasco resident Virginia Devine mortgaged her home to raise the $75,000 needed to post a bond to prevent demolition of the Pasco-Kennewick Yellowstone Highway Bridge. The Trust worked for its preservation with Devine and the Benton-Franklin Riverfront Trailway and Bridge Committee (BFRTBC) in opposition to the demolition plans of Pasco and Kennewick and the Washington State Department of Transportation. Devine, who also became a Washington Trust Board member, received national media coverage for her commitment.

Constructed in 1922 across the Columbia River to accommodate the growing transportation needs of the eastern Washington communities of Kennewick and Pasco, the bridge was representative of the long truss steel spans built in the Pacific Northwest during that time. The bridge provided the final link of the Yellowstone Highway, the first automobile transportation highway that stretched between Plymouth, Massachusetts and Seattle.

The bridge had a significant impact on the social and economic development of the region but was closed in 1978 with the completion of the parallel Cable Bridge. Preservationists, however, succeeded in placing the Pasco-Kennewick Bridge in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

In 1983, another proposal to demolish the bridge was successfully challenged by the Trust, along with the National Trust for Historic Preservation as amicus curiae, and ruled unlawful by the 9th Circuit Appeals Court as the project was found to violate Section 4(f).

In 1989, the BFRTBC claimed in court, with the Washington Trust and the National Trust as amicus curiae, that the state was still in violation of Section 4(f) as alternatives to demolition had not been fully explored. This effort was, however, unsuccessful. In May 1989, the US District Court removed a six-year old injunction against demolition, and the bridge was demolished in spring 1990.

Virginia Devine received the Washington Trust award for Outstanding Individual for spearheading efforts to save the historic bridge, and also a National Trust Honor Award. 

This story is part of a series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. Please consider making a special gift to the Washington Trust in honor of our accomplishments as we celebrate this year together! Continuous stewardship is needed to protect that irreplaceable legacy for future generations – we appreciate and look forward to your ongoing participation and support.

Here's to 40 more years of saving places that matter across Washington! Please sign up for our special weekly e-newsletter to recieve stories like this in your inbox all year long.

previous story | next story | all stories