The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

May 27, 2013

Temporary bridges planned for fallen I-5 in Washington

SEATTLE — Federal investigators used 3D laser scans Sunday to study what remained of a collapsed Washington state bridge as Gov. Jay Inslee announced temporary spans will be installed across the Skagit River within weeks — if plans go well.

Sunday’s announcement comes a day after the chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board called last week’s Interstate 5 bridge collapse a wake-up call to the state of safety of the nation’s infrastructure and the Saturday destruction of a highway overpass in Missouri that was struck by a cargo train.

The Washington state collapse, caused by a semi-truck carrying an oversize load striking the bridge, fractured one of the major trade and travel corridors on the West Coast. The interstate connects Washington state with Canada, which is about an hour north of Mount Vernon, where the bridge buckled.

After the collapse, semi-trucks, travel buses and cars clogged local bridges as traffic was diverted through the small cities around the bridge. But overall, traffic was flowing as well as expected during the holiday weekend.

“We’re going to get this project done as fast as humanly possible,” Inslee, a Democrat, said Sunday. “There are no more important issue right now to the economy of the state of Washington than getting this bridge up and running.”

Inslee said he hopes the temporary spans, each with two lanes for northbound and southbound traffic, will be finished in about three weeks’ time or about mid-June. The spans will be pre-built and trucked to Mount Vernon.

The state plan also calls for a permanent span to be built and competed by autumn, officials said.

Officials say there are remaining inspections to the spans left standing to make sure they are safe to use.

The federal government is expected to cover 100 percent of the costs of the temporary bridge and 90 percent the replacement, said state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson.

The temporary span would be able to carry regular-sized cargos as well as cars. The speed limit would be lower than the 60 miles per hour allowed previously.

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