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May 26, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Inslee says temporary fix for Skagit River bridge by mid-June

Gov. Jay Inslee and other state officials presented a plan Sunday afternoon to erect a temporary fix for the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River. The governor said the temporary fix could be in place by mid-June and that a permanent fix could be open by September. Before its collapse, about 71,000 vehicles used the bridge each day.

The temporary fix for the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River, which could be open by June, would look like this. (Photo by Janet I. Tu / The Seattle Times)

The temporary fix for the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River, which could be open by June, would look like this. (Photo by Janet I. Tu / The Seattle Times)

The temporary span would have four lanes (two in each direction), each narrower than the current lanes so speed on the bridge will be reduced. Oversize loads or vehicles will not be allowed on the temporary span, state officials said Sunday at a news conference at the site of the bridge collapse.

The temporary span will consist of two 24-foot-wide structures that will be pre-built and trucked to the site. If no additional damage is found in the bridge structure, that temporary fix could be open by mid-June.

Then crews will start working on a permanent span. That work will entail crews putting temporary piers into the Skagit River to support a work platform adjacent to, and just west of, the collapsed span. When the permanent fix is completed — possibly by late September, according to state officials — it will be rolled into place and the temporary span removed.

Governor Jay Inslee’s office had estimated the total cost of repair at about $15 million.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell said the state has applied for federal funding to cover 100 percent of the cost of the temporary fix and 90 percent of the cost of the permanent span. (The state would pay the other 10 percent). She said the money would come from federal emergency funds and that she felt “encouraged” that the application would be approved.

Previous post: The Skagit River Bridge that collapsed Thursday after an oversized truck nicked it has “a history of oversize vehicle hits,” Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman discusses a slide showing the variable height in different areas of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River. (Photo by Janet I. Tu / The Seattle Times)

National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman discusses a slide showing the variable height in different areas of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River. (Photo by Janet I. Tu / The Seattle Times)

NTSB investigators came to that conclusion after looking over the past 10 years of inspection records for the bridge, Hersman said at news conference Sunday morning in Burlington.

The last documented hit was on Oct. 22, 2012, where “you can see with the naked eye the hit” in the first portal frame of the northbound lane, she said. “As you walk the bridge, you can see visible damage on other spans that are not so recent.”

The NTSB did not give a total figure for hits to the bridge from oversize vehicles, saying it was still looking over the past records.

NTSB investigators are planning on interviewing the driver of the pilot car that preceded the truck. The pilot car had a measuring pole attached, and the pilot-car driver was supposed to alert the truck driver by radio if there were any height issues along the way.

The NTSB also wants to interview witnesses who were at the scene at the time.

Some witnesses had apparently said they saw the pilot car’s pole wagging as it was crossing the bridge. Hersman said her team was still putting together the complete picture of what happened.

“There are a lot of statements that will be put out there,” she said. “Some of those witness statements will be conflicting. We’re going to work to corroborate all the interviews” as well as look at videos shot from various vantage points.

In addition, the NTSB has the truck driver’s log book and is, in accord with standard operating procedures, conducting a 72-hour work/rest  and medical history for the driver to see if any of that could have affected what happened.

The truck, which was headed southbound over the bridge, was carrying an open-sided casing shed for oil drilling equipment. The NTSB is working to determine where the truck’s original destination in Canada was. It was headed toward Vancouver, Wash., with the casing shed ultimately bound by barge for Alaska, Hersman said.

The truck has been moved to a secure lot, where additional NTSB inspections can take place, she said.

Hersman said the NTSB’s preliminary report will be issued in 30 days.

In other news related to the bridge, the Washington State Department of Transportation says barges are carrying demolition cranes to the bridge today, with actual demolition work scheduled to begin around 10 or 11 p.m. tonight. There will also be a containment barge where items pulled from the river will be loaded and turned over to the NTSB for investigation.

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