The Admiral Clarey Bridge

April 25, 2019

From the moment you arrive at Pearl Harbor and step through the main entrance into the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, you’ll find that there is much to take in. There is one, however, that may not immediately grab your attention despite being a vital piece of your Pearl Harbor experience: the Admiral Clarey Bridge.

The bridge that connects Ford Island to the rest of Pearl Harbor is a relatively recent addition. If you look at pictures of the aftermath of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, you’ll see that there was no bridge there at all.

Known as the Admiral Clarey, or Ford Island, Bridge, the 4,672’ span floats atop the waters of Pearl Harbor, making it one of only a few floating bridges in existence. Additionally, its movable span, allowing ships to pass through, is the longest in the world. The Admiral Clarey Bridge is an architectural feat designed by Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc. Construction on the bridge began in 1996, but the history of the bridge dates back well before that.

Before the Bridge

Ferry boats Waa Hele Honoa (YFB-83) and Moko Holo Hele (YFB-87)
Ferry boats Waa Hele Honoa (YFB-83) and Moko Holo Hele (YFB-87)

Before the bridge was built, two diesel-powered ferries provided transportation between Ford Island and the rest of Pearl Harbor. Purchased in 1959, Waa Hele Honoa was the only ferry that transported people and equipment back and forth until 1970, when Moko Holo Hele was came into service. At the time, access to Ford Island was only permitted to military personnel or sponsored guests.

The Search for a Proposal

In 1967, proposals to connect the island were sought. Initial studies considered different means of connection, including a tunnel and a causeway, but it was a bridge that was ultimately decided upon. What kind of bridge, however, was a different story.

When a causeway was ruled out for being too expensive, proposals for a steel bridge were put forward but those, too, were dismissed due to their cost. It wasn’t until Senator Daniel Inouye stepped forward with legislation that would allow the Navy to sell land to fund the bridge that proposals were finally taken seriously.

Funding the Admiral Clarey Bridge

Admiral Bernard A. Clarey
Admiral Bernard A. Clarey

Senator Inouye’s push for the funding to have the bridge built was part of his desire to breathe new life into Ford Island. As the bridge was under construction, additional work was being done on Ford Island, which included more than $330 million for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Opening the bridge made it possible to bring more visitors to Ford Island, which made the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum possible.

When the bridge was completed in 1998, it was named for United States Navy Admiral Bernard A. Clarey. Clarey was a Commander of the US Second Fleet and eventually Commander of the US Pacific Fleet. He was at Pearl Harbor serving aboard the submarine USS Dolphin (SS-169) when the Japanese launched their attack.

While civilians aren't allowed to drive themselves across the Admiral Clarey Bridge, authorized Pearl Harbor tour vehicles carry guests to visit the Battleship Missouri, the USS Oklahoma Memorial, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

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