Truckers ignore danger warnings on vulnerable bridge

by: Essex Porter Updated:

Highway 529 Bridge

Near Everett, Wash. - KIRO 7 investigators have found evidence that some truckers are taking dangerous risks with one of the oldest and most vulnerable bridges in our region.

The Highway 529 Bridge carries at least 15,000 vehicles a day across the Snohomish River from Everett to Marysville. Built in 1927, it is 86 years old, 28 years older than the I-5 Skagit River Bridge. Joe Ed crosses the bridge to get to work. "It moves, shakes, vehicles going back and forth over it, it's kind of scary," Ed said. The state classifies the 529 bridge as "structurally  deficient," but safe.

At 14 feet, 3 inches, it has lower clearance than the I-5 Skagit River Bridge. The state has installed warning signs and a detector to warn truckers if their loads are too high. But damage to the bridge is evidence that it has been struck by tall trucks despite the warnings. "I've seen trucks go over it with the lights flashing, they don't even slow down or nothing," said Michael VanDerElst, who often rides his bike across the bridge. "They make it, but, you know, it's just spooky."

That's especially dangerous, because like the I-5 Skagit River Bridge, the Highway 529 Snohomish River Bridge is also classified as "fracture critical," meaning the failure of a single structural component could cause the bridge to collapse. That's why the bridge was closed for repairs in December of last year after a suspected drunk driver ran her SUV into one of the support beams.

"It's devastating," said Terry Valleck, who owns Signal Trailer Service, "that's the only way on and off this island, if something happened to that bridge."

The December repairs cost upwards of $80,000. The state transportation department would like to pursue the suspected drunk driver for the cost, but says she missed an April court appearance and now has a warrant out for her arrest.