At that time, in 1927, there were only 1,400 people living in Marysville, noted Mayor Jon Nehring during a special ceremony held at the base of the bridge on June 14. In recent years the Ebey Slough Bridge has carried up to 17,000 cars per day-a volume it was not designed to handle.
For more than 30 years, replacement of the Ebey Slough Bridge has been on the Washington State Department of Transportation's (WSDOT) project list.
"Senator Mary Margaret Haugen has been a staunch supporter of the new bridge," said Nehring. "Thanks to her efforts, the project has stayed on the department's radar."
Former mayor Dennis Kendall agreed. "We lost funding on this project three times," he recalled. "Mary Margaret got it back on the list each time."
Construction on a new wider, fixed-span bridge began two years ago at a cost of $37 million, and was partially opened to traffic in mid-April. While work continues on the new structure, the 85-year-old Ebey Slough Bridge will be demolished, piece by piece, over the next few months.
The June 14 ceremony was a decommissioning of the historic bridge, a rare occasion for WSDOT. Along with representatives from the cities of Marysville and Everett, Snohomish County, WSDOT and the bridge contractor, several bridge tenders and their families were on hand to take one last walk across the old metal and wooden structure.
The late Robert Rasmussen was the first bridge tender, maintaining a watchful eye from the small wooden box nestled high within the steel girders. Four generations of his family, including 3-year-old great-great-grandson Eben, attended the special ceremony and shared stories of growing up around the bridge.
"Turnover is very low for bridge tenders," said Chris Christopherson, director of maintenance at WSDOT. "There are four men serving as bridge tenders currently, with more than 100 years of service between them. Together they manage to cover 41 work shifts each week, sharing equally the good and bad schedules."
Gregg Hays, a 28-year WSDOT veteran and one of the last of the Ebey Slough bridge tenders, explained, "We work 10 days in a row, with one-third of our shifts on days, one-third on swing shift, one-third on graveyard." Hays now sits high above the Snohomish River Bridge at Steamboat Slough, keeping a watchful eye on car and boat traffic.
Hays and his cohorts were recognized with the presentation of signal lights, taken off the bridge swing gates, certificates of service and a limited edition reproduction of artwork depicting the bridge.
While crossing the bridge with friends, Hays recalled an especially vivid memory.
"There was a couple standing on the bridge, yelling at each other, about 15 years ago," he said. "The man threatened to throw himself off, and he did. But the tide was out, so instead of drowning, he just got excessively muddy." Hays, of course, was on the phone to emergency responders, who managed to get the inebriated man out of the mud with only a broken leg.
He's witnessed car accidents, some more spectacular than others, and mischief aboard boats as they crossed under the bridge. But mostly the days of a bridge tender are pretty routine.
"You're not needed until you're needed," he said with a smile. "Rather like a firefighter, you have hours of monotony broken up by minutes of critical response."
There are 17 moveable bridges on state highways across Washington. The new Ebey Slough Bridge, a stationary span, was designed to be 28 feet above the water to accommodate the small boats that use the slough without having to interfere with vehicle traffic.
As the group prepared to take one last walk across the iconic bridge, Nehring encouraged everyone to "appreciate the history beneath your feet."
"The bridge has been part of Marysville's downtown personality for a very long time," he continued. "But it's time to say goodbye to an old friend."