Our Sponsors:

Read more »

Our Members

Many thanks to Bradley & Sally Bagshaw and Michael Goodman some of our many supporters.

ALL MEMBERS »

The fix is in: Guv has temp solution for Skagit bridge

The stand-in span will be narrower, with a lower speed limit and no oversize loads allowed.
Rendering of the new, albeit temporary, Skagit River bridge.

Rendering of the new, albeit temporary, Skagit River bridge. WDSOT

Two vehicles fell from the bridge into the swirling river water

Two vehicles fell from the bridge into the swirling river water John Stang

Collapsed span of the Skagit River bridge

Collapsed span of the Skagit River bridge John Stang

The I-5 bridge across the Skagit River shortly after its collapse

The I-5 bridge across the Skagit River shortly after its collapse Martha T/Flickr

Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Sunday that a temporary replacement for the I-5 Skagit River bridge should be in place by mid-June. A permanent replacement is in line for September.

Transportation secretary Lynn Peterson explained how the state plans to construct the temporary bridge span in the river just west of the gap in the existing bridge. Once workers clear away debris from the collapsed bridge, the temporary four-lane span will be "rolled" into place and connected. Exactly how to roll that temporary section is still being studied. And the entire replacement strategy remains contingent on what inspections reveal about the condition of the piers on either side of the gap.

The temporary bridge section will be slightly narrower than the rest of the bridge, so the current 60 mph speed limit will be lowered  after the temporary span is installed.

A permanent replacement section is expected to be built and installed sometime in September. The stretch of I-5 over the Skagit will likely be closed for two weeks during the installation. Peterson is confident that the September timetable is solid. The Atkinson Construction Co. of Broomfield, Colo. – with an office in Renton – will tackle the Skagit work. Atkinson has handled several highway and bridge projects in Washington.

Peterson said the original $15 million cost estimate to fix the bridge appears accurate. The state has already received $1 million from the federal government.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) expressed her certainty on Sunday that the feds will provide most of remaining money through a U.S. Department of Transportation emergency fund designed for quick repairs. "This is the type of incident that qualifies for the fund," Cantwell said.

That federal appropriation is contingent on the state providing 10 percent of the replacement money. Gov. Inslee said the state will raise its share either through legislative appropriations or from existing state funds, calling the Skagit River bridge replacement the state’s top near-term transportation priority.

Inslee, Cantwell and U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Washington) stressed I-5’s role as a vital north-south artery through Washington and along the West Coast, and said the current gap handicaps the economies of Skagit County, Washington and the entire West Coast. Cantwell said $13.9 billion in commercial traffic crosses the bridge each year.

The Skagit River bridge handles roughly 71,000 high-speed vehicles a day;12 percent are commercial. With its closure, four smaller bridges on side roads are being forced to handle unprecedented volumes of traffic.

The 160-foot span collapsed at roughly 7 p.m. Thursday when a southbound semi, carrying an oversized load of drilling equipment, clipped an overhead beam and sent a section of bridge tumbling into the Skagit. The moment of impact and its immediate aftermath were captured by a private security video. About 50 vehicles managed to stop in time, but one car and a pickup truck hauling a trailer slid 50 feet into the river, half sinking in the Skagit's waters. The occupants crawled out onto the vehicle roofs where they were rescued by local officers. The three suffered only minor injuries and were taken to local hospitals.

The Alberta-based semi-truck had a state permit to carry its oversized load of 15 feet, nine inches. Washington requires bridges with a clearance of less than 15 feet, three inches to post clearance heights. That’s three inches more conservative than the national standard. But as an added safety cushion Washington lists a bridge's clearance as three inches less than the measured height.

On the I-5 Skagit River bridge, the published heights are 14 feet, five inches at the outermost curb; 17 feet, three inches at the line dividing the outer and inner lanes; and 17 feet, nine inches near the bridge's center. Again, the actual heights are three inches higher.

Washington's transportation department, state patrol and the National Transportation Safety Board are conducting parallel investigations of the accidents.


Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!

Comments:

Posted Thu, May 23, 10:19 p.m. Inappropriate

I want to be the first person to announce that:
George Bush did it.
The bridge collapse in no way reflects on the priorities of the the State of WA. elected officials, Union bosses, or any Democratic person elected to public office. This horror, this heart wrenching tragedy, can be laid squarely at the feet of any mean spirited person who might refuse to increase taxes.
The new governor, who even now, is being driven to the exact location of the photo and news opp, will provide verbal proof that he cares, and will do everything in his power to repair this blemish on the WADOT. He will further announce, later this weekend, that he will seek new taxes to pay for routine maintenance of roads, highways, and bridges.
God Bless America
Jamesmi@frontier.com

Jamesa

Posted Fri, May 24, 12:05 a.m. Inappropriate

So will the new taxes now go towards preservation, especially on I-5, as former DOT Sec. MacDonald warned was being ignored last week, or in addition to all the new Mega Projects the DOT is busting a gut get started?

007

Posted Thu, May 23, 11:54 p.m. Inappropriate

Washington State DOT data at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/mapsdata/tools/traffictrends/ … indicates 70,000 average daily traffic on I-5 Skagit River Bridge total in both directions.

jniles

Posted Fri, May 24, 6:22 a.m. Inappropriate

Time to put some money toward infrastructure replacement and repair.

Let's start with approving WA's portion of the CRC funding. It is not too late.

gaia

Posted Fri, May 24, 1:04 p.m. Inappropriate

There's nothing wrong with the existing bridge. You're just another "progressive" who will use every excuse to impose light rail on people who've made it clear that they don't want it.

NotFan

Posted Fri, May 24, 2:13 p.m. Inappropriate

It's hard to believe that the current Columbia River Crossing is in better structural shape that the Skagit River Bridge when one considers that the CRC is twice as old and carries much more traffic.

Meanwhile, anyone who crosses the CRC on a regular basis knows first-hand that it's 'functionally obsolete' - clearly incapable of efficiently handling the current amount of traffic that crosses it, which is far above the capacity it was designed for.

There's a clear need for a new Columbia River Cross, whether or not it includes Light Rail.

Posted Fri, May 24, 3:01 p.m. Inappropriate

At the behest of "progressives" in both states, a new CRC bridge must include light rail. Until the requirement is removed, the bridge should not be built. Once it's removed, light rail should be decided by voters on both sides of the span. If both sides don't agree, then the bridge should be built without light rail capacity.

NotFan

Posted Sun, May 26, 12:49 p.m. Inappropriate

The Columbia River Portland/Vancouver bridge should not be built for light rail. Our own I-90 bridge was built for light rail expansion too, yet that will never happen.

Be sensible. Change the CRC plans and just build the new bridge.

Posted Fri, May 24, 8:15 a.m. Inappropriate

Tax toadies on here: This was bad driving, bad pilot car-ing, and an exercise in how much liability insurance the Canadian trucker has.

Nothing about taxes, or condition of bridges.

Typical lib arguments, never let a crisis go to waste, eh?

The Geezer

Geezer

Posted Fri, May 24, 8:47 a.m. Inappropriate

This 58-year-old bridge, like any bridge or overpass with low clearance, has undoubtedly been hit by over-size trucks many times since 1955. When bridges and overpasses are hit by trucks, they very rarely collapse. So, the question is why did this particular collision cause that bridge section to totally collapse? This isn't the first time a truck has ever hit that bridge, is it?

Lincoln

Posted Sat, May 25, 7:41 p.m. Inappropriate

We really don't know yet. This might have been a freak accident in which the truck hit at the exact right (wrong) place on the structure.

NotFan

Posted Sun, May 26, 1 p.m. Inappropriate

It will be interesting to see the findings. What seems odd is that the other span didn't collapse, so the rumors of another truck forcing this to move over may be more the reason, if that turns out to be true.

The bottom line is that wrecks and accidents do happen, and no bridge should so easily come down.

Posted Mon, May 27, 8:16 a.m. Inappropriate

One of the reasons that through-truss bridges aren't used on highways anymore is exactly because they are susceptible to this type of catastrophic damage. It's an ingenious design, but damage to a principal member can set off a chain-reaction failure like this. It has nothing to do with the age or maintenance history of the bridge. But it may have something to do with the outdated information that the state DOT publishes about bridge clearances. A concrete-truss overpass over Highway 16 near Gig Harbor has been hit by high loads twice now in three years. It's currently awaiting repairs from the second impact a few months ago.

dbreneman

Posted Fri, May 24, 8:48 a.m. Inappropriate

This 58-year-old bridge, like any bridge or overpass with low clearance, has undoubtedly been hit by over-size trucks many times since 1955. When bridges and overpasses are hit by trucks, they very rarely collapse. So, the question is why did this particular collision cause that bridge section to totally collapse? This isn't the first time a truck has ever hit that bridge, is it?

Lincoln

Posted Sat, May 25, 7:42 p.m. Inappropriate

We really don't know yet. This might have been a freak accident in which the truck hit at the exact right (wrong) place on the structure.

NotFan

Posted Fri, May 24, 9:41 a.m. Inappropriate

I will be interested to hear if a proposal is made to put a toll on this bridge when it re-opens.

dbreneman

Posted Fri, May 24, 1:03 p.m. Inappropriate

The governor of Oregon is already using the collapse as a reason to build a new bridge from Portland to Vancouver, even though there's nothing wrong with the existing bridge. It's all about wanting to bail out Portland's light rail boondoggle. No crisis goes wasted among the "progressives."

NotFan

Posted Fri, May 24, 3:38 p.m. Inappropriate

I am no engineer, but the pictures I saw after the collapse had what looked like blackberries and ivy growing on the supports, growing in dirt that had been left on the supports, my guess is since 1955.

Maintenance is key and a basic way to prolong the life of anything. So what do we really get for our money at WSDOT? More roads to nowheresville with an expiration date?

salmonjim

Posted Fri, May 24, 6:36 p.m. Inappropriate

I've heart the supporters of CRC have adopted Pink Floyd's "Burning Bridges" as their theme song.

I suppose if we want a bridge that will last for more than a century without any problems, we should contract the nearest Roman Legion and have them build it for us.

Djinn

Posted Sat, May 25, 7:51 a.m. Inappropriate

The Romans were fine engineers - but everything they built was constructed with conscript or slave labor, and paid for with taxes; we don't have the former, and thanks to Tim Eyman and I-695 barely have the latter to pay for highways in this state.

Posted Sat, May 25, 12:45 p.m. Inappropriate

O' ye of little faith. We've got lots of illegal aliens who work for cheap and I hear there's more where those came from. That takes care of the labor issue, as for money to pay, let's put a toll on it and troll under it. Pay or else.

Djinn

Posted Sat, May 25, 1:01 p.m. Inappropriate

We have plenty of tax revenues. Unfortunately, much of that revenue is wasted on stupidly expensive projects like Link light rail, and the deep bore tunnel. Had those billions of dollars been spent on maintaining roads and bridges we would be in much better shape than we are today.

Lincoln

Posted Sun, May 26, 1:01 p.m. Inappropriate

Hear, Hear!

Posted Sat, May 25, 7:49 a.m. Inappropriate

The Romans were fine engineers - but everything they built was constructed with conscript or slave labor, and paid for with taxes; we don't have the former, and thanks to Tim Eyman and I-695 barely have the latter to pay for highways in this state.

Posted Sat, May 25, 11:57 a.m. Inappropriate

It's beyond pathetic for the "progressives" to blame Eyman for poor maintenance. You people waste money as effortlessly as you breathe.

NotFan

Posted Sun, May 26, 4:51 a.m. Inappropriate

Somethings wrong when people argue they want to be taxed more.

salmonjim

Posted Sun, May 26, 12:43 p.m. Inappropriate

Well, the money for basic services, maintenance, and replacement has to come from somewhere. The difficulty I see is that WA folks have voted to reduce taxes and take the advice of regressives and use the pay-as-you-go method, I.e. user fees. But boy do they stomp their feet when they get what they asked for, such as road tolls. Oh we'll - surprise - there are consequences to your vote.

And will some one tell that moocher Eyman to get a real job already and stop sponging off folks with more money than sense. Slurping at the corporate trough while playing the common man. Great gig if you can land it!!

Treker

Posted Sun, May 26, 1:01 p.m. Inappropriate

Double hear, hear!

Posted Wed, May 29, 2:17 p.m. Inappropriate

The state should build something like the Ponte Vecchio with a mall right on the bridge. The usual stuff, a WalMart, a Great Wolf water park, and a Dick's and an Ivar's.

Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

Join Crosscut now!
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow Us »