NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

BREAKING: A section of the Interstate 5 bridge over Skagit River has collapsed

Break­ing, huge­ly con­se­quen­tial news out of Skag­it Coun­ty tonight: A sec­tion of the Inter­state 5 bridge over the Skag­it Riv­er near Mount Ver­non has col­lapsed, accord­ing to the State Patrol and eye­wit­ness reports on Twitter.

The collapsed section of the bridge that carries I-5 over the Skagit River

The col­lapsed sec­tion of the bridge that car­ries I‑5 over the Skag­it Riv­er (Pho­to via North­west Cable News)

The Seat­tle Times has an even more remark­able pho­to.

The struc­tur­al fail­ure occurred just before 7 PM, the State Patrol said. The Skag­it Coun­ty Sher­iff said at least three peo­ple had been res­cued from the water.

Map of location

The col­lapse affect­ed a struc­ture that car­ries Inter­state 5 over the Skag­it Riv­er just north of down­town Mount Vernon

The dis­as­ter has affect­ed both north and south­bound lanes of trav­el and made I‑5 com­plete­ly impass­able between Seat­tle and Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia. Traf­fic is now being rerout­ed by the State Patrol; there have been huge traf­fic back­ups in both direc­tions. Traf­fic is being detoured to High­way 9 to the east.

A Patrol spokesman says that Gov­er­nor Inslee and Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Peters have been noti­fied; the spokesman indi­cat­ed they were both enroute to the area.

(UPDATE: The gov­er­nor’s office has now con­firmed to NPI and oth­er media that Gov­er­nor Inslee is head­ed to Skag­it Coun­ty with Sec­re­tary Peterson).

Another view of the I-5 bridge collapse

Anoth­er view of the I‑5 bridge col­lapse (Pho­to: Gina Cole)

Every major Seat­tle tele­vi­sion sta­tion has bro­ken into its reg­u­lar pro­gram­ming to car­ry live feeds. KOMO has a heli­copter on scene already and KIRO and KING are expect­ed to have their own chop­pers over the scene shortly.

A 2008 report cat­e­go­rized the bridge as “struc­tural­ly sound and safe”. Obvi­ous­ly, the bridge’s fail­ure makes it painful­ly appar­ent this was not the case.

The bridge has also been clas­si­fied as obso­lete, but it had not been list­ed by the state as struc­tural­ly defi­cient, con­trary to what some peo­ple have said on Twitter.

Pho­tos and videos show that sev­er­al oth­er sec­tions of the bridge remain stand­ing — the col­lapse only brought down one sec­tion. It is one of last sec­tions over the water.

Res­cuers have been work­ing to pull affect­ed motorists out of the water. Police, fire, and para­medics are all on the scene, and a med­ical heli­copter has evi­dent­ly been employed to fer­ry injured peo­ple to hospitals.

I’ve trav­eled over this bridge a num­ber of times, most recent­ly on May 12th, when I returned from Van­cou­ver, B.C. It’s scary to see a sec­tion of high­way I’ve reg­u­lar­ly tra­versed in pieces in the riv­er below.

UPDATE, 9:21 PM: Burling­ton North­ern San­ta Fe (BNSF) has halt­ed train traf­fic over the Skag­it Riv­er while it inspects its own bridge.

WSDOT’s Travis Phelps has con­firmed eye­wit­ness spec­u­la­tion that an over­height vehi­cle is believed to have trig­gered the bridge col­lapse; it appar­ent­ly struck a gird­er as it tra­versed the high­way over the Skag­it Riv­er. The bridge clear­ance is list­ed by the State Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion as fif­teen point four (15.4) feet.

No fatal­i­ties have been con­firmed thus far. Injured indi­vid­u­als have been tak­en to the Skag­it Val­ley Hos­pi­tal to be treated.

The news that this bridge col­lapse was like­ly caused by an over­height vehi­cle brings to mind the inci­dent that dam­aged an over­pass near Roslyn a few years ago, as well as this inci­dent from 2011, in which an over­height vehi­cle dam­aged the gird­ers that car­ry Inter­state 90 over High­way 18 near North Bend.

The Nation­al Trans­porta­tion Safe­ty Board (NTSB) is gear­ing up already to help with the inves­ti­ga­tion. The agency announced on its Twit­ter feed that per­son­nel are prepar­ing to depart for the Ever­green State immediately.

NTSB will be send­ing full go-team to inves­ti­gate the I‑5 Skagik [sic] Riv­er bridge col­lapse in Wash­ing­ton. More details soon.

— NTSB (@NTSB) May 24, 2013

King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine has released a state­ment offer­ing the resources of the state’s largest coun­ty to help with the response.


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  1. That sure gets your atten­tion when it hap­pens on I‑5.

    # by Mike Barer :: May 24th, 2013 at 8:02 AM
  2. Who are these truck­ing com­pa­nies that are haul­ing their over­sized crap on our road­ways? We need to have a very seri­ous talk with, and dis­ci­pline, them on this.

    # by Gretchen Anna Sand :: May 24th, 2013 at 2:16 PM

One Ping

  1. […] BREAKING: A sec­tion of the Inter­state 5 bridge over Skag­it Riv­er has collapsed […]

    Ping from Morning Rundown for May 24th, 2013 :: May 24th, 2013 at 9:30 AM
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