For 38 years. the primary method of travel across the Columbia River was a ferry. But that changed in February 1917 with the official opening of the Interstate Bridge. The same year, the first electrical substation was built in Clark County. Modern times had arrived.
A ceremony dedicating the bridge drew a crowd of 40,000, a considerable number when the population of the entire county had not yet reached 30,000. The $1.75 million bridge was the last stretch of the Pacific Highway. It physically linked the county to rich markets in Portland and made daily trips to Oregon convenient for the first time.
On March 31, 1955, a 19-gun artillery salute announced the opening of Interstate 5 through Vancouver, and the bridge was dubbed, the Interstate or I-5 Bridge. A new southbound span opened July 11, 1958 at a cost of $14.5 million. Repairs were made in 1997, and the bridge recently was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, eight decades after it opened, the Interstate Bridge is still in use.
An I-5 ghost story
Some say a tall man wearing an overcoat and dark felt hat can be seen walking on the I-5 Bridge on foggy fall evenings. Supposedly he is the ghost of Vancouver Major Grover Percival. Apparently, the mayor walked onto the bridge on election night in 1920 and never returned. He hanged himself, and his body was found on Hayden Island a month later.