For 38 years ferries were the primary way of traveling across the Columbia River, but all that changed in February 1917 with the official opening of the Interstate Bridge. That same year the first electrical substation was built in Clark County. Modern times had arrived and the county's population boomed.
The bridge dedication ceremony in 1917 drew a crowd of 40,000 at a time when the population of the entire county hadn't reached 30,000. Costing $1.75 million, the bridge was the last unfinished piece of the Pacific Highway. It also linked the county to rich markets in Portland and made day trips to Oregon convenient for the first time.
On March 31, 1955, a 19-gun artillery salute announced the opening of the Interstate 5 freeway through Vancouver and the bridge received its current name, the Interstate 5 or I-5 Bridge. On July 11, 1958, the southbound span of the I-5 Bridge opened at a cost of $14.5 million. Repairs were also made in 1997 and it was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, eight decades after it opened, the Interstate Bridge is still in use, although sometimes it's a bit overworked.
An I-5 ghost story
On foggy fall evenings there are rumors that a tall man wearing an overcoat and dark felt hat can be seen out walking on the I-5 Bridge. Stories say this is the ghost of Vancouver Major Grover Percival. Apparently, the despairing mayor walked out onto the bridge on election night in 1920 and never returned. He hung himself and it was a month before his body was found on Hayden Island.