Governor Jay Inslee has announced a plan to replace the collapsed portion of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River near Mt. Vernon.
A portion of the bridge collapsed into the Skagit River near Mount Vernon on the evening of May 23 after a semi-truck struck critical steel supports. There were no fatalities, but three people did suffer minor injuries as their vehicles fell into the icy Skagit River after the collapse. Traffic has been seriously disrupted in the interim since the collapse, affecting both trade and tourism in the surrounding counties.
“We will install a temporary span on the bridge that will restore traffic while we build a safe and durable permanent span adjacent to it,” Inslee said. “This plan ensures the economic vitality of Washington state and the communities along this important corridor.”
The temporary four-lane bridge will carry I-5 traffic over the Skagit River at a reduced speed and capacity and will consist of two, 24-foot wide structures to replace the collapsed section of the bridge. The structures will be pre-fabricated and trucked to the site to allow for accelerated installation.
The remaining southern section has been examined and will not need to be replaced.
“The plan minimizes the closure time and keeps clear access to popular Skagit County retail business and destinations including the Anacortes ferry terminal,” Inslee said. “I’m proud of all the work done by the Department of Transportation and all our local and federal partners that resulted in this innovative plan.”
If the remaining inspections of the bridge structure find no additional damage, the temporary bridge could be in place within weeks. Once debris has been removed, further underwater structural examinations will determine if additional repairs are needed before installing the temporary span.
Crews will immediately start work on the permanent bridge when the temporary span is put in place. Crews will put temporary piers into the river to support a platform adjacent to the collapsed span where the new section will be built. Once complete, the temporary span will be removed and the new permanent span will be moved into place. WSDOT hopes to have the permanent bridge open to traffic in early fall.
Inslee declared a state of emergency for Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties on May 24, prompting the immediate $1 million federal emergency quick release funding from USDOT. Federal funding will make up 90 percent of the cost of a permanent fix. The initial estimate for the total cost of a permanent fix is $15 million.
WSDOT Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson said that although the short-term fix will bring some relief to drivers and the community, the final resolution is still months away.
“We ask for everyone’s patience as we transition from emergency operations to long-term repair,” Peterson said.
Reduced speeds during the interim fix mean traffic backups will continue to be a challenge, both locally and on I-5. Drivers should still allow for extra time when traveling through the area. The detours will remain in place to provide drivers with travel options.
“The home stretch will be a two week total closure of I-5 likely in September as crews remove the temporary structure and move the permanent bridge into place,” Peterson said.
The I-5 corridor carries 71,000 vehicles each day and is the only north-south interstate in Washington state.