The bridge is a steel truss cantilever bridge, designed by Swan Wooster Engineering Co. Ltd. Construction began in November 1957, and the bridge was officially opened on August 25, 1960. It cost approximately $15 million to build. Tolls were charged until 1963.
On June 17, 1958, as a crane stretched from the north side of the new bridge to join the two chords of the unfinished arch, several spans collapsed. Seventy-nine workers plunged 30 metres (100 ft) into the water. Eighteen were killed either instantly or shortly thereafter, possibly drowned by their heavy tool belts. A diver searching for bodies drowned later, bringing the total fatalities for the collapse to 19. In a subsequent Royal Commission inquiry, the bridge collapse was attributed to miscalculation by bridge engineers. A temporary arm, holding the fifth anchor span, was deemed too light to bear the weight.
The bridge was renamed the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing in 1994 to honour the 19 workers who died in the collapse, along with four others who also died during the construction process.Stompin' Tom Connors paid a musical tribute to the fallen ironworkers with the song "The Bridge Came Tumbling Down" on his 1972 album My Stompin' Grounds. (This tune also appears on several later compilations). Jimmy Dean's 1962 song "Steel Men" is a ballad about the Second Narrows bridge disaster. Gary Geddes' 2007 book of poetry, entitled Falsework, is based on the collapse of the bridge.