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Topic: I-5 bridge
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May 24, 2013 at 9:06 AM
In the aftermath of the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River, commuters who cross bridges everyday for work and school are taking to social media to wonder about the safety of their travel routes. With all of the work and planning being done on the Highway 520 bridge – a floating span called “earthquake- and storm-vulnerable,” by state Sen. Rodney Tom in a 2011 Times Oped - but also the Alaskan Way Viaduct and other roadways across water, how do drivers maintain confidence in these structures?
Early investigation into the I-5 bridge collapse point to an oversized truck that may have hit a vulnerable part of the bridge, triggering the collapse. Times writer Mike Lindblom lays it out here. But for the rest of the state, the quick answer is our bridges are as safe as regular Washington state Department of Transportation inspections show them to be.
A better question about bridge safety underscores the age, wear and tear of our bridges. Peruse this list of what the state calls “structurally deficient bridges.” Five pages listing bridges around the state, their problems and what’s being done about it. It is hard to know whether the list should be frightening or reassuring. At least we know our bridges need work and are tackling the looming challenges. But it shouldn’t take a civil engineering degree for the average person to get a sense of the scope of the needs and whether long-term plans are aggressive enough to tackle them.
We dodged a bullet with only a few injuries and cars falling into the water. I still remember the 2007 bridge collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13, apparently due to a flaw in the bridge’s design. We can appreciate the relatively light impact of the I-5 bridge collapse while also asking pertinent questions about the efficacy of all our structures.
At least money won’t necessarily be a problem, Rep. Rick Larsen, issued a statement this morning saying that he had talked with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Secretary LaHood confirmed that the Department of Transportation has emergency funds available to aid repairs. The Department of Transportation has established an interagency task force to expedite the permitting process for the bridge repair.
May 3, 2013 at 3:14 PM
Without scanning the photo archives, I seem to recall it was state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vantucky, who was holding that infamous sign at the Tea Party rally that read: “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.”
I might be wrong, but the pattern would fit. You know, those anti-government conservatives, who condemn all that socialism going around, as they stand with both feet in the trough.
Benton went in all hip deep, accepting an appointment by two Clark County GOP commissioners to lead the county’s Department of Environmental Services.
Democratic Commissioner Steve Stuart was dumbfounded by his Republican colleagues, Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke, would fill an important post without at least seeking other applications. Stuart told them what they did “stinks of political cronyism. Stinks!” The Vancouver Columbian has audio links to a curious moment in local government.
Madore and Mielke said that Benton was fully qualified and they did not need to open the job to candidates. You decide. Here is Benton’s work history from his online legislative biography:
Professional Experience: An advertising and marketing expert, Don is founder and CEO of the Benton Group, which conducts sales, marketing, and training consulting for television worldwide. His ad agency division manages the marketing and advertising for several law firms and small businesses, 1988 – present; co-founder, Santa Clarita Temporaries, Inc., temporary employment agency, 1979-1983; district manager, Farmers Insurance Group, 1983 – 1988.
Benton, who won reelection in 2012 by fewer than 80 votes, was in the news recently for his noisy opposition to replacement of the Interstate 5 bridge that links Vancouver and Portland. His willingness to impede commerce on a vital West Coast freeway link is stunning. Of course, a quick look at his delusional pursuit of federal political office suggests he is not grounded in reality. He led the state Republican Party for a second a few years back.
Benton does not like the I-5 bridge plans or light rail, but he is “all aboard” for the gravy train. Wanna bet he has already figured out how his time in Olympia will factor into his government pension with the county job?
April 12, 2013 at 6:40 AM
Washington’s political gridlock over replacement of the I-5 bridge across the Columbia River has even caught the attention of The Economist, Britain’s distinguished news magazine.
A headline on the article about the Columbia River Crossing expresses evident frustration with what it reports: “Sometimes it’s a wonder anything gets built.”
With droll acknowledgement of the gorgeous vistas, the article notes commuters stuck in traffic have plenty of time to take in the views.
The crossing’s role in the economy is duly recognized: “Thousands of Vancouverites commute to jobs in Portland, and the bridge lies on an important route for lorries bearing freight, much of it offloaded at nearby ports.” Indeed.
The federal government and Oregon have already committed funds for a new bridge, if Washington steps up. Most of the official obstinacy in Olympia about providing the state’s share of the replacement costs comes from lawmakers outside of Vancouver. Local support is strong, on both sides of the river, as I explain in my column.
A business story in The Oregonian adds another wrinkle to what might be a changing dynamic. Vancouver just enjoyed an economic development coup. A Portland telecommunications company, Integra, will relocate and consolidate 690 employees scattered around Portland to a long vacant former Hewlett-Packard Co. campus in east Vancouver. Almost half of the workers already live in Washington.
The other employees in Oregon, many of whom are used to riding light rail to work in northeast Portland, will have to navigate the traffic across the aged bridge. As the transportation realities in and around Vancouver become clear, the Columbia River Crossing debate is likely to gain new voices for change.