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Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Washington’s elected leaders respond to collapse of I-5 bridge over Skagit River

As the evening goes on, more and more elected leaders are reacting to tonight’s breaking news out of Skagit County. A section of the bridge that carries Interstate 5 over the Skagit River, just north of Mount Vernon, has collapsed into the water. The cause of the disaster is believed to be an overheight truck that struck the superstructure, but this has not been officially confirmed yet.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson and their entourage have arrived in Skagit County to respond. The governor is expected to address the news media shortly at a site not far from the interstate.

Congressman Rick Larsen, who represents western Skagit County, was among the first elected leaders to respond, with a statement issued at 8:27 PM.

“I am monitoring the bridge collapse in Skagit County,” he said. “My office stands ready to assist emergency responders and local and state officials. I encourage people to follow police instructions and stay away from the site of the collapse to let first responders address the situation safely.”

Senator Maria Cantwell sounded similar notes in a statement released just a bit ago.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by this collapse and to the emergency responders on the scene,” Cantwell said.

“My office is closely monitoring this situation in coordination with federal, state and local officials. We stand ready to help the community in Skagit County and to support the ongoing emergency response efforts. I encourage people in the area to avoid I-5 and to follow the directions of local officials.”

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, who represents eastern Skagit County (as well as NPI’s hometown of Redmond) likewise indicated she stands ready to help.

“I’m closely monitoring the bridge collapse in Skagit County this evening. I am deeply relieved at the early reports of no known fatalities from the bridge failure. As emergency response efforts continue and inspection crews investigate the cause of the shocking collapse of this bridge, I stand ready to assist in any way I can.”

“This evening, as I am urgently traveling to the scene from Washington, DC, my staff is currently at the Skagit County Emergency Operations Center to help in coordination with federal, state and local officials. My staff and I are also in communication with the NTSB as they send a team to investigate and assist.

“I encourage the public to avoid the scene and follow the directions of local officials and all suggested detours in the area.”

Patty Murray announced an hour and a half ago on Twitter that she is following developments as well, with a tweet signed “PM”.

Closely monitoring #SkagitBridge & my staff is working w/ @GovInslee, @wsdot, & local officials to assist in any way possible. -PM

—  @PattyMurray, 9:09 PM

“My thoughts are with the injured and their families, and I am thankful there appear to be no fatalities. King County stands ready to assist in the response to the I-5 bridge collapse,” King County Executive Dow Constantine added on Facebook.

Here’s some reaction from state lawmakers:

“Thinking of those affected by tonight’s events in Skagit County. I’m especially thankful for the dedicated WSDOT crews that are working hard tonight.”

State Representative Marko Liias

“What a terrifying experience for the people thrust into the nightmare of a collapsed bridge. We’ve all taken this route a million times…sending prayers to those families directly effected.”

State Representative Reuven Carlyle

“We need to invest in our transportation infrastructure not just for our economy but for our safety!”

State Representative Dave Upthegrove

“[A Columbian] reporter just called and asked if this bridge collapse changes the debate on the CRC [Columbia River Crossing]. First, I had not heard of the collapse before his call as I had just gotten off work late and went directly to the store. I hope and pray everyone is alright – that would be a miracle! However, I believe this collapse only intensifies the debate in Olympia on the I-5 bridge’s safety which has always been a primary issue, particularly the much older northbound span. The critics voices will say they want a new bridge – but their actions say they really don’t want a new bridge. They will say we can build a “cheaper” bridge – a total myth. They will point to a number of what they consider “problems” but never address the core issues with a VIABLE alternatives that have not already been explored and discarded by their peers. No, I hope and prey no one was seriously hurt but the need is there even more now to build that bridge!”

State Representative Jim Moeller

“Thoughts and prayers for those in Skagit Valley. Very serious situation for victims and first responders.”

State Representative Chris Reykdal

“Maybe we should increase the size of the proposed transportation package so we can make sure our state’s highways are safe.”

State Representative Joe Fitzgibbon

UPDATE, 11 PM: The governor is being briefed and his news conference is expected to begin in a few minutes. It will be carried live on all major stations.

UPDATE, 11:59 PM: The governor’s news conference didn’t last too long. Not all the networks carried all of it because they were talking to a survivor at Skagit Valley Hospital. Here is Governor Jay Inslee’s statement:

“I’m thankful there were no fatalities tonight. I want to thank the U.S. Border Patrol, our State Patrol and local fire, police and other emergency personnel who participated in a very successful rescue effort.”

“Our hearts are with those who have been injured and we hope to hear good news soon of their speedy recovery. Witnesses say a truck hit the bridge and caused it to collapse, but an investigation has been launched to confirm that. Any witnesses or people with information should contact the State Patrol.”

“I urge everyone driving through this area to pay close attention to the detour and travel information that our state Department of Transportation and State Patrol will be providing. The National Transportation Safety Board is on their way tomorrow, and I’ve been in touch with our federal partners.”

“We will be involved in a vigorous and diligent effort to get traffic flowing again through the Skagit bridge corridor and I will issue an emergency proclamation tomorrow to make sure we have the resources to do so as quickly as possible. This is an opportunity for us to pull together to show strength of character and patience and good citizenship as we deal with this disruption. “

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