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Collapsed Span Reopens Early

Monday, September 23, 2013

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Built in 66 days and installed in 19 hours, the Interstate 5 Skagit River Bridge in Washington State has reopened to traffic—and the entire process can be viewed in just under 90 seconds.

The bridge, which carries I-5 over the river about 60 miles north of Seattle, collapsed into the water on the evening of May 23 after an 18-wheeler carrying an oversized load collided with the overhead structure, sending two cars and three people into the water.

The new span was reopened to traffic on Sept. 15, two weeks before the Washington State Department of Transportation's Oct. 1 deadline.

A time-lapse video from WSDOT shows the new I-5 Skagit River Bridge span being put into place.

The I-5 bridge, originally opened in 1955, serves as a major commercial route between Washington and Canada, normally carrying about 71,000 vehicles a day. About 11 percent of traffic is commercial trucks transporting goods between the two countries.

WSDOT worked with its contractor, Max J. Kuney Company; designer Parsons Brinckerhoff; bridge-mover Omega Morgan; and several specialized subcontractors to move two sections of the temporary span and swap the new one into place.

The team worked to remove the temporary span and slide and lower the 900-ton concrete permanent span into its final location using a complex system of hydraulic jacks, Teflon pads, and long steel rails.

"I want to acknowledge the tremendous work of the entire team who worked on this bridge," said Gov. Jay Inslee, calling the bridge work "an effort we can all be very proud of."

Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) also commended the work, saying, "The I-5 Skagit bridge is an economic lifeline for the region. Due to the tremendous effort by local, state and federal agencies working around the clock, we now have the permanent structure in place."

Skagit River Bridge
WSDOT / Flickr

The I-5 Skagit River bridge collapsed in May when an 18-wheeler carrying an oversized load struck the overhead structure.

Now that the permanent bridge span is complete, a new round of construction will start as crews work to start retrofitting the overhead bridge supports.

Renewed Bridge Attention

The day after the bridge collapsed, Inslee estimated the cost of repairs at $15 million. The same day, then-U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced that he would make $1 million in federal emergency funds immediately available to begin repairs on the bridge.

The collapse "brought renewed attention to the safety and conditions of the Nation's bridges," the Office of Inspector General said in August, when announcing a planned series of audits to assess the Federal Highway Administration's management of measures to ensure bridge safety.

The audit was requested by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), the ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

In June, Rahall introduced the Strengthen and Fortify Existing (SAFE) Bridges Act to provide dedicated funding for states "to start to reduce the backlog of more than 150,000 bridges ... that have reached or are nearing the end of their expected lifespan."

"The [Skagit River] bridge that gave way was just one of thousands across the country that have exceeded their life expectancy and are in need of replacement," Rahall said when announcing the bill.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Contractors; Department of Transportation (DOT); Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)

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