It’s only been sixteen hours since a section of the bridge that carries Interstate 5 over the Skagit River collapsed, but already the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is working on a plan to put the span back together.
Experts have estimated the cost of a bridge repair at around $15 million, according to an emergency proclamation signed by Governor Jay Inslee this morning.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has already committed $1 million in federal dollars towards the project. Further help is likely to be forthcoming from Washington State’s congressional delegation; our senior senator, Patty Murray, just so happens to be the Chair of the Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies.
We have to ask: Wouldn’t it make more sense to completely replace this functionally obsolete bridge, given that one section of the span has already collapsed? The bridge is going to be out of service for a while. Perhaps a complete replacement would take more time to design and build. But it would save time, disruption and money down the road (pardon the pun).
It’s troubling that a section of the existing bridge was apparently brought down by an overheight vehicle striking the superstructure. If that’s the kind of impact that could suddenly send the bridge deck into the river, then it’s not a bridge that I or anyone else at NPI wants to be driving over any longer. Time to demolish this structure and put in a new one engineered to modern standards.
We have to get serious about investing in our infrastructure. There is a reason that we at NPI are committed to fighting Tim Eyman’s initiative factory year in and year out. Tim’s destructive initiatives prevent us from taking care of problems like this before they happen. Without funding to replace functionally obsolete and structurally deficient bridges, we can’t head off bridge collapses and bridge closures.
In 2005, when we fought Initiative 912, NPI’s Washington Defense PAC paid for hundreds of signs shaped like orange construction warning signs reading, “NO 912 – SAFETY FIRST”. We used these signs during our Viaduct Hazard Demonstration.
In defeating Initiative 912, we saved the 2005 Transportation Package and allowed a whole host of highway safety projects to move forward.
Unfortunately, the 2005 Transportation Package didn’t include funding to replace all of our ageing bridges. That’s why a new package is needed.
House Democrats proposed a new transportation package a few weeks ago, but unfortunately it is oriented around new highway lanes. Lawmakers should reprioritze and adopt the mantra we used during the NO on I-912 campaign: Safety first!
The proclamation signed by Governor Jay Inslee this morning declares that a state of emergency exists in Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom counties, and puts Washington’s Military Department in charge of the response.
WHEREAS, a section of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River in Skagit County collapsed on May 23, 2013, closing the Interstate in both directions, requiring implementation of detours through adjacent neighbo rhood roadways, causing extensive disruption of the primary north and south bound transportation route through Western Washington, and impacting our citizens, businesses and economy in Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom Counties; and
[WHEREAS] the estimated cost to repair the bridge is $15,000,000. Repairs and necessary interstate highway closures require the approval of Washington’s Secretary of Transportation, and the Washington State Department of Transportation is coordinating resources and working to implement damage repairs. These emergency conditions warrant closure of affected roadways for a significant period and implementation of emergency procurement procedures to hire a contractor to repair the damage; and The roadway damage and its effects continue to impact the life and health of our citizens, as well as the property and transportation infrastructure of Washington State, all of which affect life, health, property, or the public peace, and constitute a public disaster demanding immediate action; and
[WHEREAS] the Washington State Military Department has activated the state Emergency Operations Center, implemented response procedures, and is coordinating resources to support local officials in alleviating the immediate social and economic impacts to people, property, and infrastructure, and is continuing to assess the magnitude of the event.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Jay R. Inslee, Governor of the state of Washington, as a result of the above – noted situation and under Chapter 38.52 and 43.06 RCW, do hereby proclaim that a Stat e of Emergency exists in Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom Counties in the state of Washington, and direct the plans and procedures in the Washington State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan be implemented. State agencies and departments are directed to utilize state resources and to do everything reasonably possible to assist affected political subdivisions in an effort to respond to and recover from the event. As a result of this event, the Washington State Military Department, Emergency Management Division, is instructed to coordinate all incident – related assistance to the affected areas.
A media availability has been scheduled for 12:30 PM at the Skagit County Administrative Building. Governor Jay Inslee, State Patrol Chief John Batiste, and Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson will be joined by Senators Murray and Cantwell and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, who represents Mount Vernon. They will be discussing next steps and taking questions from reporters.
Investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are headed to the site and are expected to join in the news conference. The NTSB announced last night it was mobilizing to respond to the disaster. From their announcement:
The National Transportation Safety Board has launched a go-team to investigate the I-5 bridge collapse over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon, WA. The collapse occurred at 7:00 pm local time, last evening.
Highway Safety Investigator Robert Accetta will serve as the investigator-in-charge, leading a multi-disciplinary team of NTSB personnel. An NTSB investigator from the Seattle office is en route to the scene and the remainder of the team will arrive on-scene later today.
NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman is accompanying the team and will serve as the principal spokesperson during the on-scene phase of the investigation.
The NTSB is perhaps best known for investigating plane crashes and aviation mishaps, but it also has the authority to take the lead in investigating other incidents, like train derailments and highway bridge failures.