Don’t Go Through Life Cutting Corners

There is a phrase which my mother always says to me, don’t go through life cutting corners.   Although I feel that this principle can be applied to every aspect in life, I feel that it fits perfectly the Tacoma Narrow Bridge. The plans to start construction on the Tacoma Narrow Bridge started as early as the late 1880s.  There were plans to build a bridge between Tacoma and Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State.  The plans were pushed back for many years due to the lack of funding.  It was not until the late 1930s that an engineer, Clark Eldridge and Leon Moisseiff went head to head, trying to get the contract.  Clark Eldridge proposed a plan in which he would build the Tacoma Bridge using 25 feet deep plate girders and use a budget of eleven million dollars.  Leon Moisseiff was the designer and consulting engineer in the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California and he had plans to build the bridge for a lot less than the eleven million that Clark Eldridge foresaw spending.  To do this, Moisseiff proposed to use shallow support, which would give the bridge a more elegant look, would only require approximately six million dollars to construct and would not require years to construct since he would only use eight feet deep plate girders to support the bridge.
Needless to say, Leon Moisseiff won the contract and started building the Tacoma Narrow Bridge on September 27, 1938.  It took 19 months to build and a little over the six million.  The Tacoma Narrow Bridge opened to the public on July 1, 1940.  From the start, the bridge was nicknamed the Galloping Gertie because it was easily moved by the winds.  The bridge ran 5,939 feet in length and although it was so long, it had only two lanes. The high winds would sway the bridge since the eight feet deep plate girders were not strong enough to resist the winds.  On November 7, 1940 there were high winds in the state of Washington.   At around 11 in the morning, The Tacoma Narrow Bridge collapsed.  Thankfully there were no fatalities as a result.
So what can engineers and aspiring engineers take from this unfortunate occurrence? NOT TO CUT CORNERS.  Had the engineers and designers done the project right, using the right supplies and relying on 25 feet deep plate girders as Clark Eldridge proposed, the bridge would not have fallen.  Yes, it is important to be cost efficient, but not at the risk of civilians’ lives.  It was fortunate that no lives were lost when the Tacoma Narrow Bridge collapsed, but that is not to say fatalities will not arise in another collapse.  It is crucial to do the job right the first time.

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