Galloping Gertie is a classic example of project failure, and software developers can learn a lot from it. The project failed before the first yard of concrete was poured. The construction itselfâ€”the actual work the workers didâ€”was fine. But the design was seriously flawed, and cheaper materials were used to spare costs.
This video is featured in our Why Projects Fail talk [pdf].
TheÂ 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge was the first incarnation of theÂ Tacoma Narrows Bridge, aÂ suspension bridge in theÂ U.S. state ofWashington that spanned theÂ Tacoma Narrows strait ofÂ Puget Sound betweenÂ Tacoma and theÂ Kitsap Peninsula. It opened to traffic on July 1, 1940, and dramaticallyÂ collapsed into Puget Sound on November 7 of the same year. At the time of its construction (and its destruction) the bridge was the third longest suspension bridge in the world in terms of main span length, behind theÂ Golden Gate Bridge and theÂ George Washington Bridge.
Construction on the bridge began in September 1938. From the time the deck was built, it began to move vertically in windy conditions, which led to construction workers giving the bridge the nicknameÂ Galloping Gertie. The motion was observed even when the bridge opened to the public. Several measures aimed at stopping the motion were ineffective, and the bridge’s main span finally collapsed under 40-mile-per-hour (64 km/h) wind conditions the morning of November 7, 1940.