Talk:Tacoma Narrows Bridge

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I'm placing this at the top of the talk page rather than the bottom, for visibility. However, with that said, I'm making a proposal. This article should be split, again, into another separate article devoted to the 1950 Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The current paragraph-long section on the 1950 span isn't nearly enough information on it (construction phase timeline, etc.), and doesn't even include the four men who lost their lives while building it. We already have a well-detailed article on the 1940 bridge, and it would do the 1950 bridge a great deal of justice to split it off into its own article.

We should also do the same to the 2007 span, and both new articles would be full articles devoted to each bridge while this one serves as the main article for the term, and for the twin spans in general. There's plenty of information on both the 1950 (even the 1940 bridge!) as well as the 2007 span that isn't even published here, and I have more than enough verifiable sources to at least get a good start on them.Srosenow 98 (talk) 09:27, 1 June 2009 (UTC)

Support, as long as there is enough material to open a new article Diego Torquemada (talk) 13:05, 1 June 2009 (UTC)
CommentI went ahead and was a little bold. I created the 1950 Tacoma Narrows Bridge article here. I'm still working on it, and created a redlink to the 2007 bridge article. If anyone objects, we could merge content and delete.Srosenow 98 (talk) 07:04, 3 June 2009 (UTC)

Picture of collapse mirrored

For some reason the photograph of the collapse is a mirror image. If you compare the still to this film: , around second 53, you'll notice it clearly. Does someone want to flip it?

That photograph is mirrored. I used to have a copy of that photo from the color slide that shot that exposure, and it was in its natural orientation. It's common, yet unnerving, to see that image get mirrored like this when actual photographic publications show it in its true orientation.Srosenow 98 (talk) 11:33, 9 April 2009 (UTC)
Further comment After a thorough examination of the original video shot by Barney Elliott of the Camera Shop, and consulting the original photographic record of the bridge collapse, that image is flipped (mirrored) from the original. Furthermore, all black and white video of the collapse is mirrored from the original color film footage shot by Barney Elliott. Per reading Catastrophe to Triumph: Bridges of the Tacoma Narrows ( ISBN 0-87422-289-3), it is explained that it was not uncommon back in the 1940s for freelance newsreelmen to license their newsreel footage to outside companies. It's explained in detail that when the 1940 "gallop" footage and the footage of the collapse was released as newsreel video, the original 16MM Kodachrome film footage was sandwiched against a roll of black-and-white 35mm film for theater houses. As soon as I am able, I am going to locate a copy of the original James Bashford photo of the bridge at the initation of the collapse sequence and post it. Srosenow 98 (talk) 10:48, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

[[:File:TacomaNarrowsBridgeCollapse_in_color.jpg|thumb|The 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsing, in a screenshot from 16mm Kodachrome motion picture film taken by Barney Elliott]]

Further Comment Part Deux I've taken the task of searching for a web-resolution screenshot of the same image, and this is what I've located. This is exactly how the image appeared on the original color film, and is also exactly how the collapse was photographed by James Bashford. I think all we need to do is replace the poor-quality black and white with this one.
Any thoughts?! Srosenow 98 (talk) 11:37, 4 June 2009 (UTC)

How about linking "The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse" phrase in "Original Bridge" section to the video here:, or as referenced above? Or providing links in the "External Links" section. Is there any reason one wouldn't want to include this somewhere? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:57, 7 November 2011 (UTC)

Length of bridges

All sources agree on the length of the main-span — 2,800 feet — for all three bridges.

But for the total length we have the following (all from official sources):

  • Bridge History – "…the [1950] bridge is 5,979 feet in length. That's 40 feet longer than its predecessor, Galloping Gertie."

This would make the 1940 bridge 5,939 ft (5979–40)

  • Bridge Connections: 1950 – Present – "Tacoma Narrows (1940) – Length of side spans: 1100 ft"

This would make the 1940 bridge 5,000 ft. (2800+1100+1100)

  • SR 16 - New Tacoma Narrows Bridge – “New [2007] bridge deck is 5,400 feet in total length, 2,800 in the main span.”

The image on the last page also shows the 2007 deck longer than the 1950 deck. This makes me think that the full "bridge deck" lengths are 5,000 ft (1940), 5,040 ft (1950), 5,400 ft (2007), and that the 5,979 ft “length” for the 1950 bridge includes ramps etc. but I cannot find a definitive source. —MJBurrageTALK • 16:18, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

The word "ramps" does not say it correctly. The excessively-long lengths that are stated sometimes for "the bridge" include several smaller and shorter "approach bridges" whose lengths are irrelevant for the lengths of the Tacoma Narrows suspension bridges.
For another example, the steel arch approach bridge that is at the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, California is NOT counted in the length of the Golden Gate suspension bridge. That suspension bridge, like most suspension bridges, has one long "main span" in the middle, plus two suspended "side spans", one on each end of "the bridge". Then, that steel arch bridge, and any other approach bridges are a different issue altogether from the length of the suspension bridge, which is what we are interested in.
For example, there are bridges over waterways in various parts of the United States that connect directly with elevated expressway highways. Those give bridges on either end of the main bridge that are completely irrelevant to the length of the important bridge that is in our attention. So, what we need to do is to find out the length of the real suspension bridge, and discard those numbers that include the approach bridges. (talk) 07:01, 17 November 2009 (UTC)


Because the second span is opening very soon, this article will need to be re-worked and new pictures added. I can re-word the article and incorporate the "2007" section into the lead, but I want to give someone who is more invested in this article a chance to do so. I'll come back in a few days and see if the "official opening" generates any activity on the article. Thanks. pinotgris 22:22, 14 July 2007 (UTC)

I've made several edits, hacking away a lot of crusty trivial bits, moving the new bridges to the top and "Galloping Gertie" down, adding a couple photos, and editing a bit (WSDOT's Flickr feed is cc-2.0! Sweet!). Please, make more edits!
BTW, I think that we can safely refer to both spans as "The Tacoma Narrows Bridge". That's what's done at the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Travisl 18:57, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
We also call the twin suspension bridges that cross at the middle of Chesapeake Bay the "Chesapeake Bay Bridge". In their case the first bridge was a two-lane bridge that was opened sometime around 1950, and the second bridge is a three-lane bridge that came a couple of decades later, plus or minus some years. This bridge is not to be confused with the immense "Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel", which is a lot farther south, a lot longer, and crosses the mouth of the Bay, not its middle. (talk) 07:09, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
Over all, I think this is a very good and much needed update -- thanks! One minor quibble: I would not call the two spans "Eastbound" and "Westbound", since I think they are going to shut down the "westbound" bridge for a while, pushing westbound traffic onto the eastbound. I prefer "1950" and "2007" to label them, since this is accurate and less dependent on the vagaries of DOT traffic management. Mlouns 19:06, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
I haven't heard anything about closing the 1950 bridge, but you make a good point that I went to check on. The WSDOT web page states:
That's probably the same terminology that we should use, but I'm out of time today. Go for it! Travisl 19:53, 16 July 2007 (UTC)

Regarding an attitude towards acceptable risk I am told by an instructor at South Puget Sound community college near the bridge recalls that his mpther told him that school kids from seattle were bussed south to watch the bridge wiggle during a windstorm. Now they would tell all the kids to stay home.

For those of you who haven't seen this yet

An entertaining take on this article. Aviad2001 17:15, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

Leonard Coatsworth

Was Leonard Coatsworth an accountant (as described in front of his quote at the beginning of the "Collapse" section) or a "Tacoma News Tribute photographer" as described in the "Tubby the Dog" subsection? I doubt they are both correct, and having both facts makes reading the article somewhat interesting.- Enuja (talk) 00:17, 2 February 2008 (UTC)


Narrows Bridge worker transport.jpg

Walking over the bridge today I saw this worker transport thing cruising along under the new bridge. I couldn't figure out where to put it in the article though, so if somebody else thinks it's worthwhile, feel free to put it in. Murderbike (talk) 00:58, 25 March 2008 (UTC)

There really should be a "Maintenance" section, but the only thing I'm finding in a quick search is [1], which was written before the second span was built (and which I can only see through Google's cache, for some reason). I know I've read human interest news stories in the past about the guys whose job it is to paint the bridge, and it's a year-round job. I don't know if anything's been written after the new bridge opened, though. Travisl (talk) 17:10, 25 March 2008 (UTC)

First toll in x years

The article currently states that the eastbound bridge has "the first roadway toll operation in Washington for nearly 20 years," citing a reference to the removal of tolls from the Hood Canal bridge in 1985. However, Astoria-Megler Bridge says that tolls were removed from that span in 1993. It could be argued that the toll booth was on the Oregon side. Bridge of the Gods (modern structure) is still an active toll bridge, operated by the Port of Cascade Locks. Similarly, Hood River Bridge is a toll bridge operated by the Port of Hood River. I've removed the statement again. Hopefully someone can clarify what it means. Travisl (talk) 21:08, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

1940 Bridge vs. 1950 Bridge

Was the 1950 bridge completely new or was it simply a new deck laid between the 1940 towers? It's hard to tell if the towers are new or merely modified in the photos. Ttenchantr (talk) 18:22, 20 July 2008 (UTC) Ttenchantr (talk) 18:22, 20 July 2008 (UTC)

It's easy to see that the 1950 bridge is completely new. The Old towers didn't have any of the wind-passage X-shaped holes in them that the 1950 bridge did. (talk) 22:02, 20 July 2008 (UTC)
No, it is not so easy to see as you state above, because the foundations of a bridge are part of the bridge, and they take a huge amount of labor, money, and time to build correctly. In the case of some older bridges, such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the James B. Eads Bridge at St. Louis, there were also lives lost and workmen crippled in building the bridges.
Thus, it is quite questionable that the original foundations and other parts of the substructure were not utilized for the bridge that was completed in 1950. Somebody needs to look up the true, substantiated facts in this case. (talk) 07:19, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

Split into Tacoma Narrows Bridge and Old Tacoma Narrows Bridge

SPLIT: this is because, the actual Tacoma Narrows Bridge and the collapsed Tacoma Narrows Bridge (Galloping Gertie) are actually two different bridges, that just carry the same name.—Preceding unsigned comment added by Diegotorquemada (talkcontribs) 12:06, July 20, 2008

I disagree. See the Talk:Tacoma_Narrows_Bridge#Update section above: the WSDOT refers to the spans "Gertie" or "1940 Narrows Bridge"; the "Current Narrows Bridge" (which I imagine they now call the "1950 Narrows Bridge"); and the "2007 Narrows Bridge." As I said last July, I think we can safely refer to both spans collectively as the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, very similar to what's done at Delaware Memorial Bridge.
If your point is that the bridge that collapsed should have a different page than the bridges that are still standing, I'd disagree with that as well. Hood Canal Bridge doesn't, and I wouldn't think to search for Old Hood Canal Bridge to find out about the part that sunk. Similarly, Second Narrows Bridge, 14th Street Bridge (Potomac River), and Caracas-La Guaira highway each refer to previous incarnations of the spans with no separate article for them. Contrarily, Quebec Autoroute 19 briefly mentions the De la Concorde overpass collapse, which is fully dealt with in a separate article. This, however, would be similar to Washington State Route 16 linking to an article about the Narrows Bridge collapse, if there were no Narrows Bridge article.Travisl (talk) 15:38, 22 July 2008 (UTC)
I disagree with you. Keeping the Galloping Gertie with the other two would be like making a single page for John Smith, just because all of them share the same name. With regard to the bridges that you mention, and given that they are not as popular as the Galloping Gertie is, it is understandable to keep a single page for several bridges. Also, please note that about 70% of the article refers to the Galloping Gertie, and therefore it deserves a single page in itself. Diego Torquemada (talk) 23:08, 22 July 2008 (UTC)
  • Split. The collapsed bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places. The existing bridges are not. The collapsed bridge created an immediate change in bridge engineering. The existing bridges met their engineering challenges. If you say Tacoma Narrows Bridge, people without a moderate interest in bridges give you a puzzled look. If you say Galloping Gertie (which, BTW, is a redirect straight to that section of the article), their eyes light up in remembrance of the famous film. I understand that all three bridges are collectively known as "the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, but the collapsed bridge has a unique history and impact on the world that is apart from the existing bridges. We could compare bridge histories for replacement structures all day which do and don't have separate articles (Benicia-Martinez Bridge or Cooper River Bridge), but this is the bottom line to me: The two existing span have notability as major bridge structures, but Galloping Gertie has a notability that reaches far above the replacement spans. Give her her own article.- PennySpender1983 (talk) 02:26, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
You make a good point regarding the significance of Galloping Gertie beyond its mere existence as a prior span at its location. My disagreement was based on similar bridge collapses and reconstruction, but perhaps I'm underestimating the significance of the first bridge collapse and the film's impact towards increasing that significance. While I still disagree, and think they should all be on one page, I don't strongly disagree, and as it seems the consensus of others is to split it, I will concede to that consensus. Go for it. Travisl (talk) 15:48, 13 August 2008 (UTC)
(I do, however, think the new page should be called Galloping Gertie instead of Old Tacoma Narrows Bridge, because there's two bridges that laymen could consider to be the "old" one. Travisl (talk) 15:51, 13 August 2008 (UTC)
  • Split. The new bridges are infinitely safer than the old one was, and it seems injustice to lump the two together into one article. The only things they have in common are (1) they are all suspension bridges; (2) they are located roughly (exactly?) in the same location. Other than that, the old and the new bridges have almost nothing in common. toll_booth (talk) 04:57, 7 August 2008 (UTC)
  • I have no problem with splitting the article, but have restored a summary of Galloping Gertie to this article. Instead of the disambiguation at the top, Galloping Gertie is now linked as the main article under the Galloping Gertie heading. This is in keeping with the style guidelines. -- SamuelWantman 06:11, 15 September 2008 (UTC)


There was one death as a result of the 1940 collapse, and that was a dog that belonged to the man (whose name eludes at this time) who had his car stuck in the middle of the span. Yet I see no information about that, it just says no "human deaths", yet there was still a death as a result of the collapse so I think that should be considered for addition to to the page. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 17:23 PST 2008-12-07

It's covered, in as much depth is as reasonable, at Galloping Gertie#Tubby_the_dog. Travisl (talk) 18:03, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Customary vs Metric

This article seems to switch frequently between American and International measurements as the main measurement. I think they should all be switched to the US Customary system, seeing as how this is an article about an American bridge. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:02, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

I do not agree that it should be switched to the international system, since the rest of the world has done it Diego Torquemada (talk) 18:34, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

The Collapse of the Entire Bridge ???"

It is stated several times in this article about the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge that the ENTIRE suspension bridge collapsed. It is also said that the ENTIRE bridge had to be reconstructed. These are not a true statements, and they needs to be corrected. So many people overlook the fact that the two tall steel towers of this bridge were undamaged and did not collapse. Furthermore, people disregard the foundations for the two towers for the bridge, which were constructed with the expenditure of a large amount of money and a huge amount of labor, probably using caissons. Blinding your eyes to these is actually a gross insult to the men who worked very hard to dig and install the foundations of the bridge.

The part of a bridge that includes its foundations and the vertical supports that rise from them, up to the bottom of the roadway structure, are called the "substructure" of the bridge, and what comes above this is called the "superstructure". What actually collapsed on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was part of its superstructure, including all of its main-span roadway. After the collapse of the roadway in November 1940, all of the bridge's substructure was left intact (did not collapse), plus its two steel towers, plus the two suspension-bridge cables.

Elsewhere in this article, it is said that the two cables were removed and used as scrap iron that was used during World War II, when steel was in great demand for ships, tanks, etc. However, I have read elsewhere, years ago, (and you'll have to look up a source) that when the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was rebuilt, that it used the same foundations and towers that had been built for the first bridge. This makes one heck of a lot of engineering and economic sense! If you think to the contrary, you need to find out whatever happened to the original foundations and the steel towers, and why.

Also, I have never been a resident of the Tacoma area, but I did drive across the Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge in about 2003, and that bridge was clearly more than two lanes wide. It was at least four lanes wide, and it was set up as an expressway. Something needs to be written about how and why the two-lane bridge of 1940 became the four-lane bridge of 1950. I believe that this happened in the redesign and rebuilding of the bridge. By about 1947, they knew that they new bridge needed to be wider -- simply since the population of the Seattle-Tacoma-Bremerton area had exploded during WW II. Lots of people came from other parts of the country to work in the Boeing Aircraft plants and in the various shipyards that grew tremendously during WW II, especially to support the naval base at Bremerton. Hundreds of thousands of people moved there, and after the war was over, lots of them did not want to leave. The same thing happened in many places in California, but especially San Francisco-Oakland, Los Angeles-Burbank-Long Beach, and in San Diego County. Likewise in areas of Texas, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, etc. (talk) 05:42, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

A couple of things. (1) Do not, ever, change another person's comments in any way, including grammar and spelling. (2) the towers were damaged in the collapse, so yes, the entire bridge had to be replaced. - Denimadept (talk) 06:47, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
More, if you disagree, you're welcome to provide references. Others have done this. Otherwise, you might well be mis-remembering what you read "years ago". - Denimadept (talk) 06:50, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
One last thing. I feel like I've been a bit hard on you, but I don't mean it to feel like that. What I intend is that you consider what you're writing carefully before you modify existing text. While WP:BOLD is the guideline, you've got to consider that this stuff, and especially this article about a famous engineering failure, has been gone over by many people over a period of years. To suddenly come up with a drastically different POV w/o references to back that position up, is going to be rejected w/o mercy. - Denimadept (talk) 06:56, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

One final answer to this: You're suggesting that they put a 4-lane deck through towers intended for a 2-lane deck, and that the substructure was able to handle this also. Wrong on both counts. The towers were damaged, go read Petroski. Replacing the towers with bigger ones would have required substantially new substructure, if they saved any of the previous work. So no, the entire bridge was replaced. - Denimadept (talk) 14:14, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

Inaccurate Statements Right at the Top

For example: "It took 10 years to build a replacement bridge".

This statement says that it took 10 actual years of construction work to build the replacment bridge. To give you a comparison, it actually took 10+ years to builf the Brooklyn Bridge: 10+ years of actual, continual, construction work, nearly every week of the years.

On the other hand, the site of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge lay entirely dormant as for actual construction work in the period of 1941-45, inclusive of the end years, and possibly longer. That is a span of time of at least one half of those 10 years that someone stated. Thus, the statement "10 years to build" is wrong by at least five years.

For another example, if we state something like, "It took 12 years to build the Panama Canal" (an approximation), that means 12 years of real work, and not 12 years with a five-year hiatus in the middle of those 12 years.

No work took place at the site of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1941-45 except for demolition work: removing parts of the bridge for scrap metal, and perhaps taking parts of it away to (Alaska? Canada?) for construction work there.

On another subject, materials shortages were not the primary causes in delay of the rebuilding of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (during WW II). No, the manpower shortage was the key factor, with many millions of men sent away to fight in the armed forces -- or working in vital weapons factories or Army & Navy construction projects. Just about the only very large civilian-related construction project that was completed in the U.S. during WW II was the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State, which was completed in 1943 - though additional power houses, etc., were added later on. However, the urgency in completing the Grand Coulee Dam was that as soon as it was finished, it becaume a huge source of electric power. That electric power was in incredibly-high demand then to power aluminum and magnesium production factories, which refine those metals by electrolysis. The hundreds of thousands of tons of aluminum and magnesium during WW II were vital - more than anything else - for the manufacture of hundreds of thousands of airplanes for the Army Air Corps, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and foreign countries during WW II. To give you a clue as to how many, the United States produced just over 100,000 airplanes in 1944 alone, but then tapered off in 1945 as the war ended in Europe in May, and then in the Pacific in August. That meant that the Federal government was able to cancel hundreds of airplane contracts.

The bottom line was that there was a tremendous lack of manpower for purely-civil large construction projects like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1942-45 - thus, construction work there was NOT carried out in 1942-45, and most likely, very little in 1946. Men and women across the country, and going overseas to fight, were far too busy with the war effort to allow for things like big-bridge construction in the United States. (talk) 08:04, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

You're reading a lot into what's not said. It doesn't say it took them 10 years to construct it. It says it took them 10 years to build a replacement. Between the collapse of the original bridge in 1940 and the opening of the new bridge in 1950, 10 years passed. You can't argue with that. It doesn't say that construction took 10 years. There's a difference.
The manpower/materials question, I'm afraid, is on your head to prove. Until you can post references, I'm afraid I'm just giving you the benefit of the doubt by requesting {{citation needed}} rather than just removing the idea completely. Also, be aware that WP is not a place for original research. See WP:NOR for details. Citations are not just a Good Idea, they're required. - Denimadept (talk) 14:17, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

The 1950 and 2007 bridges are not identical, are they?

I haven't got any references, other than Structurae, which cover both bridges, and even that doesn't cover them completely. I have real problems believing these bridges are the same. (doing more research) - Denimadept (talk) 06:35, 26 May 2011 (UTC)

I've built a new {{infobox bridge}} just for the 2007 bridge, but I want to find data on the 1950 bridge first, to see how much different they might be. The new box is based on this site, and I'd continue looking for the 1950 data but I'm tired and am going to bed. - Denimadept (talk) 06:54, 26 May 2011 (UTC)
It is quite clear from this photo that the bridges are not at all identical. -- SamuelWantman 07:25, 26 May 2011 (UTC)

Further reading

Added the book Engineering Failures which contains a chapter all about the failure of the original bridge, and why it failed. Contains information that this article does not, along with more pictures of the collapse and first hand accounts of the collapse itself. --Tbrown224 (talk) 19:46, 8 February 2012 (UTC)

Rock and Roll Bridge

This article explains why the oscillation of the bridge happened. It goes into why an early explanation was flawed. It gives valuable in dept reasoning on the collapse.--Tbrown224 (talk) 19:31, 15 February 2012 (UTC)

Peterson, Ivars. (Jun. 2, 1990) Science News , 137(22), pp. 344-346

Disambiguation hatnote

I came to this article looking for the 1940 bridge. I suspect that a significant minority- and more likely the majority- of people are in the same position. It was not immediately obvious where the standalone article for that (as would be expected for such a well-known subject) was.

It turned out in this edit that Oiyarbepsy (talk · contribs) had removed the previous hatnote stating "Not really disambiguation, but subtopics".

They may be subtopics, but they still have their own articles (i.e. they're not subsection redirects).

Even if the subject people are looking for is ultimately mentioned in the article- here as a "mainarticle" link, along with other mentions- it's not reasonable to expect people to have to read through other content (irrelevant to what they want) to reach the subject they're looking for.

To be honest, part of the problem is that the organisation of this article is badly focused. It's neither sufficiently concentrated on the 2007 eastbound bridge (which the previous hatnote claimed it was primarily about), but nor is it a proper umbrella article covering all three bridges (the eastbound bridge not having its own article).

This should maybe be addressed, but it doesn't negate the legitimacy of hatnote links direct to the main 1950 and 1940 bridge articles.

Ubcule (talk) 12:05, 20 March 2016 (UTC)

  • This article is about the crossing, not a bridge. For the vast majority of multi-bridge crossings, none of the individual bridges are notable on their own. This, of course, is an obvious exception. I'll keep the hatnote, though. Oiyarbepsy (talk) 15:43, 20 March 2016 (UTC)
@Oiyarbepsy: Possibly- but to be fair, the article title itself still uses the word "bridge", so it's more to do with what people might expect from the article. Since we've agreed to keep the hatnote, it's pretty much academic anyway! Ubcule (talk) 14:18, 25 March 2016 (UTC)
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