Updated:MOUNT VERNON, Wash. —
Traffic on Interstate 5 through Western Washington is flowing smoother with the opening of a temporary span across the Skagit River Wednesday, where the bridge collapsed May 23 when it was struck by a truck with an oversize load. The temporary span is now open in both directions.
WSDOT says drivers will notice a reduced speed limit of 40 mph between College Way and State Route 20 before they approach the temporary span on the north side of the bridge. Freight haulers carrying legal loads will not be detoured off I-5, but oversized or overweight loads must exit and use the marked detour route.
To enforce the new speed limit, the Washington State Patrol is aggressively ticketing in the area.
“We’re up there enforcing, so people know they have to slow down,” Washington State Patrol Sgt. Greg Erwin said.
The speed limit was reduced because the lanes of the temporary span are 11 feet wide, not 12 feet like the rest of the bridge.
Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson said the temporary span will carry 99 percent of I-5 traffic.
After the bridge collapsed, Gov. Jay Inslee set a goal of restoring it by mid-June.
He went to Mount Vernon on Tuesday to inspect the span and praised workers for completing in days what normally would have taken months.
At 24-feet wide, the 160-foot temporary section is narrower than the old bridge.
The temporary span and a permanent replacement due this fall will cost nearly $18 million.
According to a report, more than one in nine bridges in the USA — at least 66,405, or 11% of the total — are structurally deficient.
Oversized loads are still not allowed on the bridge and will have to use a detoured route. The state has communicated this to trucking associations in both Canada and Washington. Crews have also setup signs near the bridge telling drivers of oversized loads to exit before the bridge.
Erwin said the State Patrol is also focusing on making sure oversized loads do not disobey the new rules and try to cross.
“We just saw a tragedy with the bridge going down,” Erwin said. “We can’t have it go down again.”
A state DOT spokesman said he did not know whether or not oversized loads would ever be able to cross the bridge. He also could not give specifics on when the permanent replacement span might complete, except to say: “after Labor Day.”
See page 8 of the report here for Washington state statistics. You can search for specific areas and bridges here.