Inslee: Temporary I-5 Bridge Is State’s Top Priority

May 27, 2013

Washington state’s top priority is fixing the section of the I-5 bridge that collapsed into the Skagit River last week. That’s according to Governor Jay Inslee. Inslee announced plans Sunday that could lead to a temporary replacement by mid June. And a permanent fix in September. Reporter Derek Wang has more.

WSDOT's rendering of the temporary bridge replacement.
Credit Washington State Department of Transportation


  The Governor stood on the northeast bank of the Skagit River, with the damaged steel bridge behind him. A chunk of its frame lay below in the water, like a decapitated metal dragon.

Inslee said the state had come up with a plan within 72 hours of the crash. The total of the fixing the bridge is estimated to be $15 million.

Inslee: “We’re going to get this project done as fast as humanly possible. There’s no more important issue right now, to the economy, to the state of Washington frankly, then getting this bridge up and running”

The plan calls for installing a temporary replacement made out of steel girders. It would have four lanes like the current bridge. But it would be narrower and oversized loads would not be allowed on it.

An oversized load is what’s being blamed for the collapse. That’s according to the the National Transportation Safety Board. The agency has been on site since shortly after the accident and its continuing its investigation.

NTSB chair Debbie Hersman said the bridge had a history of being hit by oversized loads. Before last week’s collision, the most recent incident happened last October.

The bridge is believed to have collapsed last week, after a truck hit one of the overhead girders. The truck was in the right lane. And Hersman suggested that it could have crossed safely if it had been traveling under the center of the bridge where there’s more clearance.

Hersman: “If this vehicle had been traveling in the left lane, we likely would not have seen the bridge strikes that we saw but we need to need to take measurements all the way through.”

The truck was led by a pilot car that was supposed to alert the truck if it reached a space that was too small for the oversized load. Hersman said they’re still gathering evidence and are looking to talk to witnesses and the driver of the pilot car.

Governor Inslee used the incident to talk about the importance of maintaining roads and bridges.

Inslee: “We were lucky not to have loss of life here. We don’t know if we’ll be that lucky next time. So we need to get together and have a bipartisan solution. I hope we’ll do that this year.”

The Governor also used the opportunity to talk about the local economy. He made an appeal for people to shop in Skagit County. An appeal that was directed across the state and across the border.

Inslee: “I talked to Canadians through their radio a few days ago, urging them to continue doing their great shopping at these great malls in Burlington. So we intend to be very, have a robust effort to get people to do business in Skagit County.”

Chris MacKenzie was one of those Canadians visiting to do a little bit of shopping. He said he sympathized with the locals who will have to deal with traffic headaches through their rural towns.

MacKenzie: “It’s going to suck for the community around here. But hopefully they’ll get a temporary up.”

Before the temporary goes up, the state will need to inspect the remaining part of the bridge to make sure it can handle the replacement.

And workers will also need to make repairs to other damaged parts of the bridge that are still visible several hundred feet away.

Copyright 2013 Northwest Public Radio