May 26, 2013 in Region

Temporary bridges planned for fallen I-5 section

By Mike Baker and Manuel Valdes Associated Press
 

SEATTLE — Temporary spans will be installed across the Skagit River in northern Washington state where an interstate highway span collapsed into the water this past week, Gov. Jay Inslee announced today.

Inslee said he hopes the temporary spans, each with two lanes for northbound and southbound traffic, will be finished in about three weeks’ time or about mid-June.

The spans will be pre-built and trucked to Mount Vernon, Wash., where the collapse happened.

The state plan also calls for a permanent span to be built at the same time with crews rolling in the permanent fix by autumn, officials said.

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

Officials say there are remaining inspections to the spans left standing to make sure they are safe to use.

The federal government is expected to cover 100 percent of the costs of the temporary bridge and 90 percent the replacement, said state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson.

The temporary span would be able to carry regular-sized cargos as well as cars. The speed limit would be lower than the 60 miles per hour allowed previously.

On Thursday, a semi-truck carrying an oversize load clipped a steel truss, starting the collapse of the span and sending cars and people into the cold river waters, authorities said. The three people in the cars survived with non-life threatening injuries.

But the collapse cut access to one the most important highways in Washington state for trade, commuters and travelers.

On Saturday, barges arrived at the river with equipment ready to remove the mangled steel, pavement and cars in the water.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Debbie Hersman on Sunday said the bridge had withstood other over height collisions with vehicles in the past, with the most recent reported collision happening last October. She said evidence of other collisions can be seen in the spans still standing over the water.

Hersman also said a second truck with a similar cargo was traveling behind the truck involved in the collision. She said investigators are inspecting that cargo and truck to take measurements. The truck involved in the collision has also been moved off the highway on-ramp where it has been parked since Thursday.

Hersman also said investigators have traveled to Alberta, Canada to inspect the trucking company’s records.

The NTSB head also said that if the truck had been on the left lane of the southbound lanes, it likely would have cleared the bridge without a collision, but added that more precise measurements need to be taken. The bridge’s height clearance varies across it.

“We know the company was required to establish that they could clear the entire route,” Hersman said.

The truck’s cargo from Canada was headed to Alaska. Its plan was to load its cargo onto a barge in Vancouver, Wash., about 275 miles south of the border crossing.

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