Residents concerned Lewis County bridge will collapse

by: Kevin McCarty Updated:

Black and white photo from the Washington State Department of Transportation's historic bridges album (left) and a photo taken of the bridge on July 5.

LEWIS COUNTY, Wash. - An 83-year-old Lewis County bridge could collapse if trucks now forbidden from crossing it continue to ignore a state-mandated detour.

The iron bridge on State Route 508 crossing the south fork of the Newaukum River east of Onalaska is narrow and showing signs of decay such as rust, misshapen metal and cracking concrete.

Locals like Jason Adams said they use the bridge carefully. “Somebody will eventually die on that bridge,"said Adams. “It’s only a matter of time.”

The Washington State Department of Transportation established a weight limit of seven tons and set up a detour for large trucks to go around the bridge, but locals said many drivers ignore the weight limits and use the bridge anyway.

“For years they’ve been able to go across that bridge and some guys, they just don’t want to waste time taking the detour,” said Adams

The collapse of the Skagit River bridge on Interstate 5 has raised fears that the much older, smaller bridge could fail as well. Or that repeated crossings by overweight trucks could damage the structure so badly that it would be shut down to all traffic before a replacement is in place. That would force residents east of the river to use a detour to travel into nearby Onalaska or I-5 several miles to the west.

“Probably an added 10 miles," said Ken Nelson, who lives about a mile east of the bridge.

 Nelson said he worries about crossing the narrow span when trucks are on it because there isn’t enough room.

 “I almost panic, because you have to be really sure,” Nelson said.