C+S November 2022 Vol. 8 Issue 11

The resulting benefits of the bridge, however, were no laughing matter; its presence remains a boon to the City & Borough of Sitka today. “When we look at this economic development, once the bridge was done, there’s been construction over on Japonski for almost 50 years straight, and you can really see it today with the hospital going on and the expansion of the (US) Coast Guard,” Stedman said. “Without the bridge, my guess is Mount Edgecumbe High School wouldn’t be there; the hospital would probably be in Juneau; the Coast Guard would prob- ably still be there because they like the seclusion and the location; but it was really an anchor point in the economy to get this bridge built, and we’re reaping the benefits now.” Sitka Mayor Steven Eisenbeisz echoed Stedman’s remarks: “We heard earlier about all of the economic activity that can happen on Japonski Island because of it, and that is on both sides of the island,” he said, re - ferring to Baranof Island where the town center resides. “I don’t think it would be possible without this landmark here in Sitka.” Ernestine Massey and John Stein of the Sitka Historical Society paint- ed a picture of what life was like in Sitka before the bridge linked the islands, sharing stories of the shore boat crossings – some dangerous, some humorous – that continue to be the way of things in other South- east Alaska cities such as Ketchikan, which still shuttles passengers via shore boats across the Tongass Narrow to and from the airport on Gravina Island. “I think one of the best things about coming here today was my stand - ing-room-only seat in the back, where I got to watch some of our valued Sitkans here up in the front laugh and reminisce about some events that I was not here for – the shore boats, the events, and the construction of this bridge,” said Eisenbeisz, who was born in the mid-1980s. “I actually made a comment to the city administrator (John Leach) and said, ‘Hey, John, is that going to be us in 40 years, laughing and reminiscing about this, as well?’

much deflection analysis that had to be made because you had different deflection capabilities at different points where the cable was attached. It was pretty complicated, but Dennis figured out a way to do it. “Later on, when the improvements were made on structural analysis, we went back and checked it again,” Peratrovich said, “and, sure enough, it was still working.” The project was overseen by Department of Highways Commissioner Robert Beardsley. The winning bid for the project was $3.2M in 1970; construction was completed in 1971. Beardsley was succeeded in 1972 by Commissioner Bruce Campbell, who presided over the O’Connell Bridge’s grand opening on August 19, 1972. None of the bridge design team mem - bers were present at Sunday’s dedication; Peratrovich, who founded PND with Nottingham in 1979, spoke to PND about the O’Connell Bridge design in 2019 during the company’s 40th anniversary celebration. “I’ve been with the department for 22 years, and I love these kinds of projects,” current Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF, formerly known as the Department of Highways) Commissioner Ryan Anderson, PE, said at the ceremony. “There are so many stories – whenever you work in the transportation industry, you look around at everything that was built, there are stories everywhere. This project in particular with the innovative design and the way that people thought about this in 1972 when they built it really is an ex - ample for us as a state, as the Department of Transportation, of how we Alaska State Senator Bert Stedman, who has represented Southeast Alaska in the state legislature since 2003, graduated from Sitka High School in 1974. He was 16 years old when the bridge opened. “When they built the bridge, it was pretty exciting in town,” Stedman recalled during the ceremony. “I happened to have that summer fishing out of Petersburg and bought a car when I got home. So, once it got shipped up here and I got to drive over this bridge, that was a couple of months after it was built, of course, but it was a big thing for the kids at the time to be able to drive over to Edgecumbe (on Japonski Island) and back. I think the police stayed over here (on Baranof Island), so we kind of enjoyed that until they figured it out.” want to move forward.” Historical Perspective


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