Traffic on the Sterling Highway begins to flow over the temporary Soldotna Bridge as the new bridge is closed for dismantling.
Not to be historically confused the temporary Soldotna Bridge that is now carrying traffic along the Sterling Highway replaces the new Soldotna Bridge that replaced the original Soldotna Bridge in 1965, according to long time Peninsula resident Al Hershberger. Hershberger was present September 6th, 1950 for the official dedication of the Sterling Highway at the old Soldotna Bridge with Governor Ernest Gruening.
"Sentimentally speaking, everyone has fond memories of the old bridge because of the way it looked. It was a historic landmark here. However, it was only 20 feet wide so the pucker factor entered into it when you met a truck coming down the road, so there was a lot of difference between the old bridge and the new one," Hershberger recalled as he prepared to march across that new bridge one final time Wednesday evening. Hershberger remembered the closing of the old bridge in 1965, "When they were building the new bridge back then, they slid the old bridge off to the west side of the new bridge and we used that until the present bridge that we are closing here tonight was completed," said Hershberger.
Four generations gather to make a final march across the new Soldotna Bridge.
Hershberger says he's looking forward to taking the first walk across Soldotna's next bridge in the fall of 2006, "It'll be 5 lanes wide and that will be great because it'll open up the bottle neck of traffic during the red season in July." Thirty some residents, pioneers, and their grandchildren, gathered at 11:00pm at the Soldotna Visitors Center Wednesday evening to make the final march across the new Soldotna Bridge and the first official crossing of the temporary Soldotna Bridge. The last to officially cross the David Douthit Veterans Memorial Bridge was David's father and mother Harvey and Nita Douthit accompanied by Soldotna Mayor David Carey and proceeded by homesteader Katherine Parker and Soldotna City Councilwoman Jane Stein. Mayor Carey carried a large container filled with 1,600 Mr. Goodbars to represent approximately the number of lives lost in the war on terrorism, "It was a bittersweet night and it was my way of remembering those who have been lost and rejoicing for the lives of those who continue to serve us," said Carey.
The first car to zip across the temporary bridge was a 2004 Corvette that was purchased from Hutchings Chevrolet Cadillac in Soldotna by Department of Transportation project engineer Chuck Swenor. According to Swenor that trip across was originally going to happen a month ago, "At the last minute we added a pedestrian walkway which cost a lot of time and a quarter of a million dollars to the project, but we're ready to say goodbye to the former bridge that has served this community so well," said Swenor. The extra time to add the temporary walkway will not delay the final completion date of the next bridge according to Swenor which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2006.
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