WSDOT says no delays on plans for temporary bridge

by: David Ham Updated:

Skagit river bridge

MT. VERNON, Wash. - The Washington Department of Transportation says crews are working around the clock to make sure the temporary span over the Skagit River Bridge will be open to traffic next week.

"It sounds easy, just push the bridge and drop some panels in, but this is these are really, really heavy bridges. This isn't light moving material at all, and that presents a challenge for any construction team to put that in there," said Travis Phelps, WSDOT spokesperson.

One of two temporary spans are already in place.

"The name of the game is pushing those across and positioning them. We're about 33 percent finished with constructing the second span. We expect to start pushing that across this week," said Phelps.

Crews still have to work on paving and striping the spans before they can open to traffic.

Drivers will also notice the lanes on the new span will be narrower, and the speed limits will be lower.

"Because that's different than the rest of the highway, drivers will have a reduced speed limit than the rest of the highway and we don't have that quite nailed down yet. We're working with our traffic folks but it will be lower than the 60 mph for sure," said Phelps.

WSDOT also planned to have divers inspect the pilings to make sure there was no damage when a semitruck crashed into the bridge on May 23.

High river levels have kept the divers out of the water, but crews have used side-scan sonar to make sure if there is any structural concern.

"Right now if it determines some anomalies and it needs a closer look, we may determine a decision to send in divers," said Phelps.

Businesses say they've taken a hit to sales since the bridge collapse last month.

Mike Rosso works at Butch's Auto and says sales have dropped about 50 percent.

"Once the temporary span is put in here in the next week or so, I think we're going to see the floodgates open and have a really, really good solid end of the month," said Rosso.

After the temporary span opens, WSDOT will focus on building a new permanent bridge it hopes to have in place by September.