The I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mt Vernon has collapsed.  Information is sketchy at this point, though multiple outlets are confirming vehicles in the water.

UPDATE 7:10 AM: Seattle Times has more details. Briefly: No deaths; the proximate cause at this point appears to be a strike from an oversize load; and the bridge will be closed for “weeks”. The bridge had an FHWA “sufficiency rating” of 57 out of 100; to put that in context, the Alaskan Way Viaduct has an SR of 9, and the old South Park Bridge had an SR of 6 when it was finally closed by the County. This Times article has a good discussion of FHWA bridge ratings in the area. — Bruce

118 Replies to “Breaking: I-5 Collapses in Skagit County”

  1. There’s no excuse any more – if there ever was one – for the state legislature to prioritize new highway lanes over fixing bridges and maintaining roads (as well as funding transit). Once we know that everyone is OK it will be time for a BIG organizing push in Olympia to approve the taxes that can ensure this doesn’t happen again.

    1. With all the population increase in the last 20 years we should have one or two alternative interstates by now…so yes, we need more highways. That bridge carried 70,925 daily riders — or three times what LINK does.

      1. Seriously? Stop.

        This is not about new highways. This is about fixing our crappy old ones.

      2. Alternative interstates through where? It’s not like there’s much population very far east of I-5, and west of it is water. It’s pretty clear that as long as we’re not willing to increase revenues we should be prioritizing maintenance and repair before expansion.

        And comparing an interstate to an intra-region light rail system is a little silly. They serve completely different purposes, and you couldn’t widen the vast majority of highways or roads in the Seattle area even if you wanted to.

        AND, even though fighting over light rail isn’t relevant I’ll make the point anyway: Link is still only five years old, with nothing but one of the lowest population-density areas of the city connected to downtown. In ten years Link ridership is going to blow 70,000 daily riders out of the water, so who really cares?

      3. Can we put bailo down already? I mean figuratively of course.

        Seriously though the strip mall kent troll needs a mute button while the big kids talk.

      4. John Bailo has a point. I mean, the fact that this happened on a major four-lane interstate highway at 6:45pm on a weekday, whereby all lanes in each direction collapsed at once, and yet only TWO cars went down with it, it’s obvious we need more freeways and bridge crossings.

        Oh wait.

      5. The most cited interstate proposal is to extend highway 18 (Federal Way – North Bend) in a nortwestern curve to I-5 around Everett. For instance, to the great metropolises of Fall City and Duvall, connecting to the Casino freeway (Everett Boeing).

        Bailo has talked about more freeways in greater Kent but has never said where.

      6. Agreed, rail is maxed out and freight still needs to move. Especially with all the oil trains making their way through Seattle lately.

      7. Taking a look at the WSDOT Annual Traffic Report shows that about 20,000 of those I-5 trips are local in nature. The traffic counts jump from ~50,000 south of Starbird Lane, up to the ~70,000 over the bridge, then back down to ~50,000 north of George Hopper Rd.

        The angst is with the locals now, with all those tourists mucking up their quiet neighborhoods.

      1. Do you think it is acceptable for our critical highway structures to collapse when a vehicle that commonly travels on said structures strikes one of them? I certainly don’t…

    2. I suppose it was too much to hope that people would wait for actual facts to emerge before deciding on the cause, blame and remedy.

  2. Since this is I-5, the Feds better be pitching in some serious bucks. I seem to remember when I-90 sank, they did help.

    Let’s look at a more recent example, what happened a couple years ago, with that Bridge collapse in, where was it, Minnesota?

    1. Unless this was caused by a truck driver who should have known that the bridge wasn’t able to support his or her load. In that case the truck company pays big $$$$ for it.

      1. Right now eye witness accounts suggest the clearance test pole on the flag car hit the bridge, which should have clued the semi driver in that his load wasn’t going to fit. But he proceeded anyway.

    2. WSDOT has had all our bridges fully insured since the days of Galloping Gertie. We’re not likely to pay much of the reconstruction costs.

      1. Well, Gertie was supposed to be insured but the insurance agent absconded with the money to Mexico because, well… that bridge ain’t going to fall down in a million years. I’m not a barrister nor do I play one on TV but I’m pretty sure the trucking companies insurance is going to be paying for this. Didn’t the construction company have to cover the cost when they screwed up causing the I-90 span to sink? IIRC, the State had to cover the cost of the Hood Canal bridge. Even if it was insured the storm would likely have been called by the insurance company an “act of God”.

      2. I’m pretty sure the State of Washington is self-insured. Hopefully the truck company has good insurance.

      3. Unfortunately, the trucking company is unlikely to have sufficient insurance to cover the full cost of THIS. Replacing a river bridge is pretty large on the scale of truck insurance payouts.

  3. What is an “emergency” time frame to replace this bridge? Will Cascades North see a boost in ridership for those wanting to avoid any kind of delays while a new bridge is being built?

    1. Over the holiday weekends it might attract enough additional riders to be noticeable. The rest of the time, no. Think about it, if there were hundreds of people a day wanting to ride the train (which is trivial compared to the capacity of I-5) where would they all park or how do they get to the train?

      1. OK. So the state would like to run extra Cascades runs to deal with this bridge collapse. The first holdup is rolling stock, according to the article. But the Oregon Talgos should deal with that. The second would be Amtrak crew qualifications, but I’m sure Amtrak can deal with that pretty quickly.

        The third and most problematic would be BNSF agreement, which is pretty much what determines whether this happens. The state sounds quite optimistic, according to the article.

    1. Yeah, the Feds paid for pretty much all of the I-35W bridge here in Minneapolis. It did however require Congress to approve it, so yeah, there’s that…

      You guys may be in for a long disruption. Even with an extremely expedited schedule and finishing 3 months ahead of schedule, it still took a little over a year to construct the 10 lane bridge over the Mississippi. I imagine they will have to come up with some traffic mitigation in the mean time. Here, they did things like removing stop lights on a parallel highway to create a temporary freeway, and squeezing extra lanes in places.

      1. In 2007 it was Nancy Pelosi’s Congress. Nancy’s a tough opponent, but she’s generous and big-hearted when it comes time to help folks out. Let’s see how the Oklahoma Boys vote on an emergency $200 million for replacing this bridge.

        “But it wasn’t a tornado that knocked it down”. It’s totally different.

        We are sooooo lucky that there’s that fairly recently built parallel Riverside Drive bridge. Without it all the traffic on I-5 (plus of course the existing local traffic) would be trying to squeeze across two two-lane bridges, one at Mt. Vernon and one at Sedro-Wooley.

        Even with Riverside Drive this is going to put a serious crimp in US/Canada trade. A serious crimp.

      2. They’ll require funding to be cut somewhere else to make up for it, if they do approve it.

      3. Piggy back trains can pick up the slack. As could car shuttle trains like those through the Alps or between Germany and Sylt. Oh wait, this is the USA and we can’t do that here!

      4. No, we do run an Autotrain in the southeast. This just is a really stupid short sighted idea to bring up at this point and makes train supporters look stupid. Stop already with the Amtrak can save the world rhetoric. It really just smacks, at best, of kids with toy trains but more of carpetbagger.

  4. First obvious thought (in terms of policy): will this break the logjam in the Senate regarding the CRC?

    1. Democratic Rep. Judy Clibborn, who leads the transportation committee in the state House, said the bridge wasn’t one that has been a focus for lawmakers.

      “It is shocking that I-5 would have something happen like this,” she said.

      Clibborn said the collapse will call attention to the issues facing bridges — especially the old bridge over the Columbia River that connects Vancouver and Portland, Ore.


      1. For the $4 billion they want to spend on the CRC highway expansion light rail project, WDOT could replace 10-20 bridges elsewhere in the state. Priorities, I guess…

      2. It’s ironic that Clibborn would make such a comment because SHE IS THE REASON this bridge collapsed. She doesn’t give a damn about funding basic maintenance, repair, and replacement over her pet projects to nowhere.

      3. Apparently it was considered “fracture critical,” but wasn’t actually in a state of disrepair — it’s just that engineering standards when it was built didn’t require redundancy. So realistically, even if the funding had been there, this wouldn’t have been a priority.

      4. With the prospects of a 9.0+ Cascadia subduction earthquake, I don’t think we should accept any fracture critical bridges in our region. The standard for immediate replacement should be higher.

      5. That has nothing to do with the failure mode a bridge might suffer from a seismic event. Seismic hardening of the cement supports, if it hasn’t already been done would and costs a tiny fraction of building a new bridge. That’s why seismic retrofitting has been priority #1 for WSDOT since the Nisqually quake. Let the FUD slinging commence.

    2. It is unfortunate for Skagit County that they didn’t have someone representing them in charge of a transportation committee in Olympia to make this replacement happen years ago.

      1. ROTFL I suppose the Stanwood Amtrak station will be getting more business… Finally!

  5. It’s time for progressive transportation advocates to stop pussyfooting around with 501(c)3s and form a PAC to oust the legislators responsible for funding billions in new highways while neglecting maintenance and transit. The pavement lobby knows how to play the game.

    And I will personally punch any Democrat who tries to blame this on the MCC.

    1. I’m with you 100%. I’m calling for the resignation of Ed Murray and Judy Clibborn. They are the Dems responsible for this. We’re already rid of two bad apples (Haugen and Gregoire).

  6. Looks like an oversized truck hit the superstructure. I hope they have good insurance, because they are buying a new bridge…

      1. Why would it? Oversize trucks hit low bridges many times every year. No bridge in good condition should collapse from just a truck hitting it.

      2. “Why would it? Oversize trucks hit low bridges many times every year. No bridge in good condition should collapse from just a truck hitting it.”

        If a giant, oversized truck with what amounts to a 14’+ tall, 12′ wide, metal crate (per the eyewitness account by former truck driver) cruises through several steel lateral truss members, the bridge is going to have a hard time staying up, regardless of condition or age. If the truck “scraped” or “banged” the truss, and the bridge collapsed, then I’d agree with you, but the eyewitness said he saw steel girders falling down behind the truck as it passed through, most likely because it knocked them down by passing too close on the right side when it was too tall a load for the 14′ max clearance on interstates.

        If you want to criticize the bridge itself, blame the design of having critical structural elements that are essential to the structure be “too close” to the deck/ moving traffic. With a steel truss design overhead though, you can’t ever completely eliminate that. At some point there’s a threshold where added structural soundness is not worth the added cost. And that threshold may have been much lower in the 1950’s when labor was cheap and building a bridge like this wasn’t a huge deal like it is now (permitting, environmental review, politics of FHA, cost and funding, etc. etc.).

        Anyways, I hope low-level amateur analysis like either yours (or mine, really, although I do manage construction projects and work with structural engineers daily) isn’t the catalyst behind a really crappy transportation bill by WA State Legislature. I hope they get solid facts on why the bridge collapsed, which with this kind of scenario, you absolutely can. Seeing an old bridge go down and immediately jumping to the conclusion of “see!! it’s old!! poor maintenance!! new freeways for everyone!!” is totally inappropriate, and doesn’t suit politicians or lobbyists, or news organizations well.


      3. The point is that the DESIGN of this bridge by the standards for public safety that we are capable of NOW makes THIS bridge deficient. It was a catastrophic disaster waiting to happen.

        The proper priority for the legislature in spending the Billions of tax dollars they extract from us is making sure OUR EXISTING INFRASTRUCTURE is viable, sound and in good repair and that it can withstand catastrophic events including seismic events and accidents.

        Except for very few places, there is no need to “expand” our state road system when vast swaths of it are in gross disrepair. Has anyone driven I-90 east of Moses Lake in the past couple of years? Shameful road conditions. It needs to be regraded and repaved. Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota maintain their portions of I-90 better than we do.

      4. It is not actually a wise use of money to replace every overhead truss bridge; there are lots of them. There’s no particular reason for high-and-heavy trucks to be taking these routes.

        On railroads, this does not happen; clearance for the entire route is checked before trains start their trip.

        The problem here is not a problem with bridges. It is a problem with shoddy regulation of truckers.

  7. The bridge was built in the 50’s. It should have been replaced long ago. Two lanes each direction with no shoulders.. I hope it’s repalced with a six lane all concrete bridge with shoulders. Seems the only time we replace bridges or elevated highways in this state is when they have fallen or are about to…

    I’d love to see us get proactive with the maintanace and expansion of ALL of our transportation infrastructure…

    1. If the rest of the bridge structure is sound, it seems like the most expedient way to get the highway reopened would be to replace just the fallen span with something similar to what was there before. If they do that it won’t be getting wider. They might use heftier steel and try to improve clearances on a replacement span, but that wouldn’t do anything for the still standing spans.

      On the other hand, IANACE.

    2. @Fil

      “I hope it’s repalced with a six lane all concrete bridge with shoulders.”

      Why would you replace it with 6 lanes? The traffic demand isn’t there. However, If I were going to spend money in that area, it would be to reconfigure the at-grade portion in the downtown Mount Vernon area, fixing the choke points.

      1. It’s called building for the future, even if you have it just 4 lanes now, you build it with the capacity for six and just leave extra wide shoulder space. I’m sure WSDOT has long term plans to widen the stretch of I-5 between Mt Vernon and the Canadian border to 3 lanes each direction much as they are doing between Olympia and Portland. It may be 30-60 years out but might as well spend the extra money now.

      2. Their not going to build a new bridge. They’re going to replace the span that was damaged. If/when there’s a need for extra lanes they’ll build a new bridge on each side of the existing span so they can maintain a median separation and keep traffic moving during construction.

      3. @ Brian in Seattle

        “It’s called building for the future, …”

        What does the Cost/Benefit analysis say?

      4. Building for the future means building for a reduction in carbon emissions, and the possibility that roads will become more expensive to maintain if material and resource costs rise. The best plan for the future is fewer lane-miles of freeways, not more.

  8. Yep, replace the whole bridge with a 6 lane structure, 3 lanes in each direction or at least wide enough to accommodate it for the future.

    You’d be surprised at how fast they can replace a major bridge like this when its a major route and an emergency. EIS work, normal permit times ,public comment periods, it all gets thrown out the window. Six months max.

    Of course than people wonder why it takes years and years to build anything else.

    1. There’s zero need for a 6-lane road. You don’t need to induce any more traffic, Brian. That’s bad planning. Sit down and be quiet.

      1. Good luck getting your freight through on bikes. And open to different perspectives.

      2. I highly doubt it would induce that much more traffic. And you missed where I said build it wide enough for six lanes, not make it six lanes now. Six lanes would be for when WSDOT widens the whole corridor much as they are doing in Chehalis and Centralia.

        If you’re going to rebuild the bridge, might as well build for the long term. This is no different than building a bridge that can accommodate light rail at some point in the future even if there’s no immediate plan to build the light rail on it now. The region’s population continues to grow and even if most of it gets funneled into the metro areas of Vancouver and Seattle it will translate into more traffic running between the two.

      3. Car traffic is dropping.

        If you want to build it for the future, go ahead and build it with rail lines.

      4. Brian, having driven the portion of I-5 far far too many times, I would say you may be right for expanding lane width, but only a few feet for the 2nd lane. Maybe an additional 2 or 3 feet on each side of the bridge, unless you plan to provide for pedestrian and bicycles. The road on the north side of the river needs to be better regraded as well. However, the corridor NEVER needs an additional 3rd lane. That’s just ridiculous. Doing so WILL induce more driving by increasing sprawl in an agricultural county that does not need that. You clearly don’t understand transportation policy and land use outcomes at all.

  9. Time to get a couple of Sounder trains up there running an hourly shuttle between Everett and Bellingham with stops at Stanwood, Mount Vernon, and Burlington. The precedent would be the emergency expansion of Metrolink in Los Angeles after the earthquake in the 1990’s. Heck it could be running by Tuesday morning.

    1. The Oregon Talgo trains just arrived. Maybe increased Amtrak service between Vancouver and Seattle as well? Just in time for summer.

    2. I’m afraid the riders of Sounder North will be unhappy if they have to share their tables.

      But seriously, the state ought to cough up money for easements (temporary or permanent), to enable passenger trains to be a big part of the fix.

      1. Due to the emergency, it might be possible to replace one of the north line ST roundtrips with a Talgo train between Seattle and Bellingham. A train that leaves Bellingham about 6am would arrive in Seattle about 815am (that train would replace ST train 1707). Then northbound ST train 1704 leaving Seattle at 505pm could be replaced with a Talgo which would arrive in Bellingham about 715pm. Riders in Bellingham, Mt. Vernon and Stanwood might find those trains convenient and want to keep them permanently.

    3. I doubt there is sufficient capacity for hourly bi-directional trains on the Chuckanut Drive section. There’s only one hand-thrown siding between Colony Road south of Blanchard and the stretch of double track that starts about a mile south of the Bellingham Station. That’s about ten miles of pretty slow, windy travel, even for Talgos.

      As a matter of fact, the whole line from Everett to Canada is pretty lean on sidings. There is none other between Burlington and the one at Blanchard. So that’s nearly twenty-five miles with only a single siding. There’s another at the south end of Mount Vernon, then Stanwood, the extreme north end of Marysville from 172nd Street down to the Freeway undercrossing, then downtown Marysville, which appears to be hand-thrown. That’s it.

      For the roughly 60 rail miles between the junction in North Everett where the Canada line heads north to Bellingham there are a total of five powered sidings for an average of twelve miles between facing switch points.

      The Talgo schedule is an hour and seventeen to an hour and twenty-two minutes between Bellingham and Everett, so commuter trains would probably take an hour and a half because of slower speeds over the Chuckanut section. So, even if you were able to weave the opposing moves through one another, you’d need a minimum of four trainsets to allow recovery and the head-end crew changing cabs at each end.

      There are also a few freights on the line.

      With two trainsets you could only have a run every two hours in each direction.

      Not sure how much difference it would make if it ended in Everett, though.

      Also, there’s no station facility in Burlington, sadly.

      1. Even if the tracks had the capacity, which they don’t and won’t, passenger trains would service a minute fraction of the demand. The rail ROW doesn’t come close to the majority of what people are trying to access. What are you going to do; set up a transfer station and run more trains over Stevens Pass, transfer those people wanting to use the I-405 corridor to the non-existent service on the old BNSF ROW? The demand is not a load where you can herd people onto a few trains, even a few trains per hour and make a hill of beans difference.

      2. Find people a place to park north of the river, and you’ll at least capture a significant portion of those wanting to travel to Seattle and a few other locations. That’s probably not the lion’s share of travel on I-5, but every train filled with people probably means a good quarter mile* of would-be cars in line waiting to pass.

        * complete WAG

      3. Extend Train #500 north to Bellingham, return as Train #509. The current connecting bus’s schedule will suffer anyway.

      4. 71,000 vehicle crossings per day according to AP. Passenger service is going to do what to mitigate this? And by the time all of the planing and coming up with dollars from nowhere were in place the bridge will be repaired. Cascade’s bread and butter is Seattle to Portland. Any additional effort and funding should be put toward improvements in that service. A proactive approach to lessening I-5 demand instead of a knee-jerk reaction to a single event which will be forgotten by the next time I-5 is shut down at Centrailia because of flooding or train service north of Seattle is stuck in the mud.

      5. It’d also be useful to know how much of that traffic is cars, and how much is semi traffic, which train service won’t really help. I suspect a lot of it isn’t critical anyway, just Canadian tourists hoping to score cheap purchases while the dollar is weak.

      6. Bernie, bernie bernie: “doesn’t come close to the majority of what people are trying to access”, you silly boy.
        It’s not trying to reduce congestion in Mt. Vernon, but instead, provide an alternative to congestion.
        Read your manual.

      7. The value of a 3rd train north would be if it went over the border, but that’s another kettle of fish. A #500/#509 turnaround service would be interesting just to see how it would work. I would think they could even use the same crew up and back.

      8. Congestion in Mount Vernon?… Oh, you mean during CARMAGEDDON (Bridgepacolypse?). Got it.

        We need to come up with a name for the pain and suffering for the drivers.

      9. Does Amtrak have enough crews qualified on the territory to run extra trains to Bellingham? I’m sure BNSF could supply crews, but Amtrak might have a problem.

        Because BC doesn’t make any financial contributions to the Cascades service, I don’t think any extra train is going to go into Canada.

        Extending 500/509 to Bellingham is theoretically possible, but with all the track projects going on in SW WA this summer, it seems risky. A morning ST train southbound from Bellingham (likely with a BNSF operating crew) and a return northbound trip at about 500pm (again, with BNSF crews) seems easier to put in place.

  10. The Columbian has a good story on the bridge collapse, including a comparison of the current I-5 Columbia Crossing spans to the Skagit River Bridge. The two bridges are very similar, except the Skagit River span had a much higher Sufficiency Rating than Columbia spans (57.4 vs. 49 for the southbound span and 57.4 vs. 18.5 for the northbound span).


    The collapse of the Skagit River span will definitely play into the CRC debate.

    1. And that role should be: “holy crap, we have a bunch of bridges like this all over the state! Maybe we should reconsider spending $4 billion on one crossing! We could fund dozens of bridge replacements and retrofits for that much!”

    2. collapse of the Skagit River span will definitely play into the CRC debate

      Yes, unfortunately much FUD will be disseminated. There was nothing wrong with the design or condition of the bridge structure any more than there was a flaw in the World Trade Center. As the height standard has been increased and drivers become less attentive a simple sign across the freeway built a few inches lower than the bridge clearance that makes a spectacular thud and sets off warning lights and bells should have been in place (hindsight 20:20). However, this in no way absolves the trucking firm from it’s responsibility to vet routes that will be carrying oversize loads or the drivers responsibility to pay attention to posted warning signs.

      1. From the eyewitness account yesterday, the whip on the pilot car ( flexible metal pole ) HIT the truss but because the truck was too close to the pilot car , he didn’t have time to maneuver. Pilot car needs to be a good distance ahead and the truck driver to be attentive…

      2. Yup. Keep in mind they’re paid by the mile, so the temptation is to just keep rolling and see if they can squeeze through.

      3. “As the height standard has been increased and drivers become less attentive a simple sign across the freeway built a few inches lower than the bridge clearance that makes a spectacular thud and sets off warning lights and bells should have been in place (hindsight 20:20).”

        Also, that sign should be some distance in advance of the actual bridge…. and should signal the cops, and let the truckers know that the cops are being signalled. Just in case someone decides to plow through.

  11. Does anyone know what kind of “hardening” a fracture-critical bridge can undergo?

    1. From ABC news:

      The bridge was of a “fracture critical” design, as are 18,000 bridges nationwide, meaning it could collapse if even one part failed.

      It’s an issue inherent in truss design. Other than building a completely separate back-up supporting structure the answer is no. Bridges like the one in the Arboretum can take repeated truck strikes because they use massive amounts of material to essentially create a tunnel through a berm. The “flaw” in this design is the low height. A simple safety precaution which I’m surprised isn’t in place already is a height warning system far enough away to allow an oversized load to stop. It’s a simple fix. Design and fabricate a new truss section that meets todays height standards and replace the other sections over time.

      1. Even the cheapest parking garages have a non-structural pipe hung just a bit lower than the actual interior clearances.

        Why doesn’t *every* truss bridge have one of those? Probably pay for itself in reduced maintenance cost for minor scrapes, even without the threat of bridge collapse.

      2. An excellent question. If I remember correctly there was a high tech radar or sonar detector installed in the arboretum that detects over-height vehicles (mostly U-Haul trucks) and flashes yellow warning lights. My guess is the reason no such warning exists, evidently not even signage prior to the bridge, is that the existing system has worked OK until now. Simple changes like all exits at commercial venues must open out don’t happen until there is a disaster and people die. Fortunately Miraculously, nobody was killed in this case. Unfortunately it’s often the case that safety improvements are forestalled until after the lawyers are done because making immediate changes is akin to admitting fault.

  12. More news from AP:

    Dave Chesson, a state DOT spokesman, said there were no signs leading up to the bridge warning about its clearance height.

    If true it sounds like there is a good case WSDOT is going to held partially responsible. Even more so if the application for permit stated the load was too tall to fit under the bridge. There are multiple layers of safety built in that have worked for decades. Likewise multiple parties that are culpable including the local escort.

    Gov. Jay Inslee — who issued an emergency proclamation for surrounding counties Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom — said it will cost $15 million to repair the Skagit River bridge.

    So, $15M. Makes me think the $15M figure for the I-5 pedestrian bridge is maybe just a tad inflated. Maybe if they spec 18K gold instead of 24K for the handrails it can be done for a more modest sum.

    1. “Dave Chesson, a state DOT spokesman, said there were no signs leading up to the bridge warning about its clearance height.”

      OK, that is absolutely shocking. I just assumed the bridge had the usual warning signs about height. It goes to show you shouldn’t assume competence.

      1. Lynn Peterson (DOT head) answered a question at the Friday news conference about the lack of warning signs. According to WSDOT rules, they are not required if the height is above a certain minimum. Even though the bridge is listed at 14’3″ in WSDOT’s , the rules require a buffer of 15″ to allow for frost heaves (pavement movement during extreme cold). Peterson stated the actual height at the fog line is 15’6″.

      2. OK, Don; thanks for that information.

        So it sounds like this was really entirely the trucker’s fault.

    2. The I-5 ped bridge isn’t expensive because of the traffic that uses it, it’s expensive because of the traffic underneath it. I wouldn’t assume there’s gold-plating going on just because the price is similar to repairing a road bridge that’s already designed, already has approaches, and is mostly still standing.

      1. Crossing lanes of traffic or crossing a river; not much difference. Supporting four lanes of truck traffic vs people and bicycles however seems to be priceless. If a Bailey bridge can temporarily work for I-5 and temporary bridges have been deployed for going on near a century for auto traffic crossing Lake Washington I’m pretty damn sure pre-stressed concrete sections as used in Woodinville to cross the slough could create a ped crossing of I-5 at Northgate for 1/10 of the $15M estimate. $5 and you can still make extensive use of gold leaf.

  13. The state should build a bailey bridge to accommodate passenger vehicles during construction to ease traffic congestion.

  14. I agree with WIll Douglas and others. If this doesn’t spur the state legislators to get off the dime – no pun intended (given that’s the amount they’re talking about raising the gas tax by) – and deal with the state’s transportation needs, I don’t know what will. Already, they’re surrounded by lobbyists from the most divergent group of political views, yet that hasn’t moved them much.

    Several months ago, I participated in the Voice of Washington Survey. In that, I supported funding preservation & maintenance (P&M) of existing roadways by 100%. I did not support funding expansion. I supported transit (with significantly better transparency + some operational adjustments) and other modes, but at well less than 100%. Just to support P&M would mean a 33¢ increase in the state gas tax! This is how far the legislature has let the problem get, and it’s why they should pass a “permanent” funding mechanism for P&M that automatically rises with the CPI for construction materials, leaving their votes for expansion and other transportation modes. Otherwise, we could see a repeat of the Skagit River bridge incident, which thankfully didn’t result in any fatalities.

    I thought about that bridge – which I’ve traveled on many, many times – today, and you know what bridge it reminds me of, albeit the SR one is a much-smaller version? Go south, way south. The Columbia River bridge.

    The state legislators need to summon up the willpower to fully fund the P&M needs, and I’m including replacement of aging bridges in there as well. They also need to attach a stiff fine to a company that was operating with only a lead pilot car and no trailing car. I read that WSDOT came up with a new detour, which is the one that I’d take myself! The bridge from that road that crosses the river is open, no girders above. However, if I were in charge, I would’ve thought about a different detour SB from NB.

  15. In this article in the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/25/us/washington-state-bridge-collapse-highlights-infrastructure-needs.html?_r=0, there was this comment:

    tracy, ca

    NYT Pick..

    Go to google earth and see street view of the bridge surface at the point of breakage before the bridge collapse. You’ll see large cracks across the road surface at the point where the bridge broke. It looks like this bridge structure was under considerable stress long before the breakage. I guess the inspectors didn’t see this. Too bad there aren’t pictures of the under section supports..

    May 25, 2013 at 10:05 a.m.

    I took a look, but I’m not smart enough to make any judgements. Anybody (with the right skils background) care to comment on the comment?

    1. Cracks in what? Right now I’m “virtually standing” in the middle of the roadway in the northernmost span, looking around. I think the wine Dodge van is going to miss me. The photography of the overhead girders is all borked up with the overhead running into each other at crazy angles and not lining up, but the road surface looks totally normal.

      There are a couple of asphalt patches by my feet, but that’s pretty superficial stuff.

      The bottom line is that the trusses look fine; they’re well coated with no rust or buckling of any kind showing anywhere.

      Has 209flyboy been in the fly?

      I gotta say, I’ve crossed this bridge countless times (lived in Bellywash for over a year) and I never noticed how flimsy it is until this event. It’s amazing it stood as long as it did!

      1. Thanks for the feedback…when I saw the NYT comment, I wondered what their technical background was…you never know whether to give something credence or not.

  16. See here.

    It looks like totally normal concrete expansion joints to me. However, look up to a truss beam on the right side of the photo. That beam may have been good last year, but it looks like it’s completely broken when this photo was taken.

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