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The history of the I.B. Perrine Bridge

As the 93rd anniversary of the bridge approaches, Idaho Transportation Department discusses construction, repairs and the economic impact of Idaho's tallest bridge.

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — 93 years ago, the IB Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls opened.

The rim to rim bridge was called a "Titanic structure" by the local paper, christened with a bottle of cider by the wife of the man it is named after, and celebrated by barbequing 12 steers after it opened.

Today, the bridge spans 1,500 feet across and 486 feet above the Snake River. More than 32,000 cars, trucks and motorcycles use it every day to travel between Jerome and Twin Falls counties, according to the Idaho Transportation Department.

"For the day, a pretty big gathering I think they had close to 4,000 folks," Reed Hollinshead of ITD said.

However, this was not always the case.

When the bridge was finished in 1927, it was a wonder of construction then hailed as the world's highest bridge. At first, it was not open to everyone.

The Twin Falls-Jerome intercounty bridge first opened for business on Sept. 1, 1927, as a toll road. Drivers paid 60 cents per car, amounting to around $9 in today's economy, and a nickel per passenger.

However, the payment only had to be made if the driver was headed north out of Twin Falls.

"I think they were trying to recoup their costs," Hollinshead said. "It was $662,000 to build that bridge, which was a lot of money in 1927, and I believe they were just trying to recoup that as quickly as they could." 

People either spent the money or spent far more time on the road.

"There wasn't a way across that canyon other than that way unless you drove hours out of your way," Hollinshead said.

Idaho bought the bridge in 1940, meaning drivers no longer had to pay for passing over part of it. Then in 1976, the bridge was rebuilt and remains the same today as it did back then, three times wider than the original.

The upgrade cost $10.5 million and took three years to complete.

Locals say the bridge has always been known as the I.B Perrine Bridge because of the man who was instrumental in getting it built. 

It was originally known by a number, Bridge 17-850, according to Hollinshead. The pseudonym finally became certified in 2000.

Today, it is still the fastest way to travel between Twin Falls and Jerome counties.

"Unless you're Evel Knievel and you try it another way," Hollinshead said.

In fact, the iconic stuntman did attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon on Sept. 8, 1974 but was unsuccessful.

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