WSDOT to detour drivers: 'Please be patient'

by: Gary Horcher Updated:

BURLINGTON, Wash. —

Installing a temporary span to patch the collapsed Skagit River bridge could take at least a week longer than engineers estimated.

“We said the temporary bridge would be up and running by the middle of June,” said Jay Drye of WSDOT Thursday. “Now I’m thinking it’ll be more like three weeks.”

Drye and other WSDOT engineers asked a concerned crowd in Burlington for patience, while 70,000 cars and trucks are re-routed through city streets, around the collapsed Interstate 5 bridge, snarling traffic for miles.  

“All the pain and torture is not going to last very much longer,” said Dina Swires, a WSDOT traffic engineer. "We’re doing everything we can possibly do to expedite the temporary bridge, and keep traffic moving,” she said.

But some attending the meeting had dire predictions for local businesses struggling because of the detours.

“I think some of our smaller businesses, this will break them,” said Chris Loving, a city councilman from Burlington. “Some of our car dealerships, their sales are down 80-90 percent. The city relies on the sales taxes from those places. They’ve got to find a way to get this done faster,” Loving said.

Loving was among several people explaining the problems to WSDOT.

“People don’t want to be on the road with all those trucks,” he said. “Is there any way to get the trucks - the Canadian trucks - to only run at night? Can’t you make them stop?”

Swires told the crowd the heavy traffic through the detours was a tough reality.

“We understand the businesses are struggling. We’re looking at what signing we can do -- banners, road signs, sandwich boards at offramps," Swires said. "We want people to know businesses are open,” she said.

Loving said businesses in Burlington are not optimistic.

“Costco is sending people home, because people are not coming in,” he said. "And this is just the wait for the temporary bridge When they put in the permanent one, we’ll have to go through that too (in September) so this is not just a three-month deal. This is going to continue to hurt us.”

Some in the crowd rose to compliment WSDOT for keeping traffic moving around the collapsed bridge.

“I want to say kudos to the Department of Transportation,” said a man describing himself as a truck driver. “I never ever expected traffic to move this well.”

Click here for updated WSDOT detour routes: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Construction/PugetSound/detourmap.htm