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Washington Voices

High Bridge remnant to be removed

Thu., May 9, 2013, midnight

A large, graffiti-covered abutment that marked the northern edge of what was once Spokane’s tallest bridge will soon be torn down.

Kendall Yards officials say the concrete structure on the west side of the growing residential and commercial development in West Central Spokane attracts climbers and will be removed soon because it is a hazard.

The abutment was part of High Bridge, a massive steel trestle more than 3,000 feet long that spanned the Spokane River and Latah Creek. It was built for Union Pacific Railroad and opened in 1914 when Union Station opened downtown, where the red wagon slide now sits. High Bridge was 160 feet tall, according to a 1978 Spokane Chronicle article.

Jason Wheaton, president of Greenstone Corp., which is building Kendall Yards, said he expects the abutment to be removed in the next month. Greenstone hopes to have the structure gone before it completes construction of the Centennial Trail through the property.

“I don’t think there was anything that we could do with that that wouldn’t create a hazard,” Wheaton said.

Jerry Quinn, a railroad historian who led a campaign to save two downtown Spokane train stations in the early 1970s – an effort that led to the preservation of the Great Northern Clocktower in Riverfront Park – said he doesn’t believe the High Bridge abutment needs to be saved.

“It’s irrelevant,” he said.

Other High Bridge abutments remain in the river, some of which are used by the Sandifur Memorial Bridge.

Dave Shockley, a local architect and co-founder of Spokane Preservation Advocates, said when he gives visitors to Spokane tours of the city he drives them by the abutment and tells them to use the structure to help them imagine the old massive bridge.

“I would hope that maybe the Kendall Yards developers could find a way to incorporate it into their development and maintain it,” Shockley said.

The Union Pacific’s rail line through downtown Spokane crossed the Spokane River over the Monroe Street Bridge before heading back over the river on High Bridge. The expensive pathway was the result of Union Pacific’s relatively late entry into the Spokane market, Quinn said. Northern Pacific and Great Northern already had rail lines through downtown.

“When you’re the third in line, you take what’s left,” Quinn said.

In preparation for Expo ’74, Union Pacific trains were rerouted to the downtown railroad viaduct and the old Union Pacific line downtown was torn out. High Bridge was dismantled in 1978 and 1979.

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