State inspects Skagit Bridge following unexpected repair

by: Frank Field Updated:

Skagit bridge put to the test
BURLINGTON, Wash. —

Inspectors were on the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River Saturday morning checking on repairs made last week.  A loose joint connecting the asphalt deck to the temporary bridge required a repair then. This morning workers went over the bridge to make sure nothing else needed fixing.

Jose Cerventes crosses the bridge several times a day on his way to work in the farms around the Skagit Valley. Work on a temporary bridge has him nervous about all bridges now.

"It's kinda like scary a bit, driving across it something might happen again,” Cerventes said.

The bridge has been renamed the Trooper Sean M. O'Connell Memorial Bridge after a trooper was killed in an accident directing traffic that had been re-routed. And its collapse  in May happened because an over-sized truck hit it. The odds of that happening again aren't keeping some drivers from crossing it.

"It was old and been there a long time and wasn't designed the way they design them today. It's part of the risk of life, ya know,” said contractor Rob Mesman of Mt. Vernon.

Nikki Rambow, who runs Nikki’s Espresso, says some of her customers take new routes to avoid the bridge. Her business is down to a fifth of what it was before the collapse. She hopes replacing it happens on schedule.  She's had to lay off part-timers and work 10-hour shifts herself. She credits loyal customers for keeping her in business.

“That's been really nice. People have been really supportive. People have been going out of their way to come here now to help out local businesses. So despite the loss its been good to see the community come together,” says Rambow.

The temporary span will be replaced by the permanent bridge in about a month, at a cost of about $7 million.  State transportation officials say it's safe. They're inspecting it more frequently than the bridge manufacturer requires -- three times in the span of 90 days, said Dave Chesson, WSDOT spokesman. Chessen said the bridge is so safe that in other places around the world where it’s been installed as a temporary bridge, it has been left in place for years.