Bill to Name Tacoma Narrows Bridge After Bob Oke Gets First Reading

By now you may have seen Steve Gardner’s post on the Kitsap Caucus about proposed legislation to name the Tacoma Narrows Bridge second span after the late Bob Oke. A story on the bill will soon be posted at

Oke, a Port Orchard resident and former Republican state senator representing the 26th District, fought to have the bridge built against strong opposition to the tolls that would pay for it. He died in May of cancer, two months before the new span opened.

The bill got a first reading on the state Senate floor today and has been referred to the transportation committee .

Oke’s widow Judy Oke and South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel were in Olympia Monday garnering support for the measure. The Oke family is hosting a Web site, “The Bridge of Faith,” and collecting online signatures of support for the measure. More than 700 signatures have been collected within the past five days, Judy Oke said.

But Randy Boss of Gig Harbor, representing Citizens Against Tolls, said the idea of naming the bridge after Oke adds “insult to injury.” Boss, in an e-mail to the Kitsap Sun, recalled the 1998 citizen advisory vote on whether the bridge should be built with revenue from tolls. The vote, comprising seven counties, passed with 53 percent support, but 80 percent of 26th District residents voted against the idea. Oke incurred scathing criticism from constituents and colleagues, but continued to push for the bridge, citing traffic safety as the overriding reason to build.

“To further insult us by naming the bridge after the man that orchestrated this political folly is simply adding insult to injury,” Boss said.

Judy Oke wasn’t surprised to hear of Boss’ stance. She said the public pressure against the bridge caused considerable stress to her family during Oke’s years-long campaign to see it built.

Boss, who called Oke “a really sweet guy” and was sorry to hear of his passing, indicated he’s not eager to dredge up the past.

“The best honor we could bestow on Bob Oke would be to withdraw this entire debate so as not to force an organized opposition to this idea,” Boss said.

Regarding tolls: The total amount to be financed by toll revenues is $849 million. The bridge will be paid off in 2030. The toll for the new span is set at $3; $1.75 for cars with a transponder. The current rate will be in effect through June. Original financing estimates called for toll increases up to $6 in 2015, but that may not be necessary said, Janet Matkin, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation. WSDOT officials are currently reviewing traffic and revenue data to see if an increase is needed. They will announce their decision sometime this spring.

Question of the Day: What’s your opinion on naming public structures after politicians, especially in a case like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which became a highly charged and bitter debate?

7 thoughts on “Bill to Name Tacoma Narrows Bridge After Bob Oke Gets First Reading

  1. even the opponents of the Narrows bridge acknowledge that Bob Oke was the driving force behind its construction. Now that the bridge is here to stay it seems appropriate to name it after him

  2. Yes, of course, name the bridge after the key person behind it, Bob Oke.
    Who else?

    Does anyone know how a necessary bridge could be called a ‘political folly’?
    Sharon O’Hara

  3. It is such a weakness of mind that we can remember how a vote was so negative, several years ago, but in present day, we have a new bridge, that is safe, has HOV lanes, and its ease of transversing leaves many to ask, “how did we go for so long”. We pay for this. It is often called taking ownership of our needs. A toll of $1.75/$3.00 is minor compaired to prospectus of new “tolled” projects in King County, as well as similar tolls in other states. We may have not wanted the tolls, but we do NEED the bridge that Sen. Oke helped champion. Folly? Maybe to those that do not use the bridge, nor never will. Try the Ferry System. Now there IS a folly.

  4. More than appropriate.
    I dug a little deeper on people fighting the odds and public opinion…and many who died fighting for a cause.

    Bob Oke shouldered abuse from those who opposed him and carried on anyway.
    That anyone could imagine his name not be on that bridge because he went against those against is all the more reason to name it the BOB OKE BRIDGE!
    He did the right thing for the most people and Kitsap County future.

    As did the women who fought against the odds to bring woman out of the basement, to allow them to vote, to stand with people who didn’t want them there.

    …”…Under orders from W. H. Whittaker, superintendent of the Occoquan Workhouse, as many as forty guards with clubs went on a rampage, brutalizing thirty-three jailed suffragists. They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head, and left her there for the night. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed, and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate Alice Cosu, who believed Mrs. Lewis to be dead, suffered a heart attack. According to affidavits, other women were grabbed, dragged, beaten, choked, slammed, pinched, twisted, and kicked. (source: Barbara Leaming, Katherine Hepburn (New York: Crown Publishers, 1995), 182.)..”

    Linda Chavez-Thompson Quotes
    Women’s Voices: Quotations by Women
    Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis
    Quotation: The face of labor is changing, and you can tell this by the mere fact that I am a woman … and a woman of color….”

    The Bob Oke Bridge – YES.

    Sharon O’Hara

  5. It’s a wonderful bridge. It makes the crossing so much easier and safer. I used to hate driving to Tacoma and all points South and would often chose to go through Shelton (a dangerous route), but the new bridge has made everything so much faster, easier and more enjoyable.

    I wasn’t part of the debate over its construction, but am grateful for the outcome. Senator Oke withstood the tough debate and came us a winner.

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