Construction crews working to repair the collapsed Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington plan to finish a temporary structure by next week, allowing traffic to once again traverse the river.
The bridge collapsed into the river May 23 when a passing truck with an oversized load struck critical support posts.
The crews put the finishing touches Monday on the first of two temporary spans over the river and have started work on the second one. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, crews will work around the clock to finish the replacement bridge, and the WSDOT hopes to open the river to traffic “sometime next week.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who ponied up $150,000 of state money for the project, had originally called for a temporary bridge to be in place by mid-June. Inslee has called for a permanent replacement by September.
When the temporary spans are complete, they will function as single-lane bridges, with one carrying northbound traffic, and the other used by southbound traffic.
“The temporary bridge will carry traffic at reduced speed and capacity. The permanent span will be built adjacent to the temporary bridge. Once ready, the roadway will be closed to traffic for about two weeks while the permanent span is moved into position,” according to WSDOT. “This is a difficult challenge and an aggressive schedule, but we’re mobilizing all of our resources to get traffic moving on I-5 again.”
In the weeks since the collapse, traffic has been detoured around the site, which has added up to 30 minutes to travel times, WSDOT noted. The detour, however, has been less than ideal. Police reported a spike in traffic accidents in the week after the collapse.
Construction of the temporary roadways has been slow because of the maneuvering involved in the undertaking, said WSDOT’s Jay Drye.
“Getting to this point hasn’t been easy,” he said in a statement. “Each step of removing and replacing the damaged bridge span has to be carefully choreographed to maximize efficiency, speed and safety.” - Jon Ross