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.

Sunday, November 14th, 2021

Interstate 5 crossing in Lewis County damaged by bridge strike, WSDOT says

If you’re trav­el­ing through Lewis Coun­ty tonight, tomor­row, or any­time in the near future, be advised that Inter­state 5 is not oper­at­ing at full capac­i­ty due to anoth­er bridge strike inci­dent that report­ed­ly occurred around 7:55 PM tonight.

Bridge strike at Koontz Road

Bridge strike at Koontz Road (Pho­to cour­tesy of WSDOT)


The right lane on north­bound Inter­state 5 at mile­post 69.5, near the Koontz Road over­pass is closed due to an over height load strik­ing the under­side of the over­pass, dam­ag­ing the bridge and caus­ing con­crete to fall onto the roadway.

WSDOT bridge crews are assess­ing the dam­age to deter­mine next steps. There is cur­rent­ly no ETA for reopen­ing the right lane of the high­way. Trav­el­ers should expect delays through the area.

WSDOT pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that all lanes of North­bound I‑5 were closed.

It is pos­si­ble to detour around the impact­ed area using the Jack­son High­way, which can be accessed from the Tole­do Vad­er Road or US 12 East exits.

The Koontz Road over­pass is locat­ed in between Exits 68 and 71 — as the WSDOT advi­so­ry men­tions — at mile­post 69.5, near the city of Napavine.

Napavine is close to halfway between Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton, and Port­land, Ore­gon. (Napavine’s north­ern neigh­bor, Chehalis, is approx­i­mate­ly equidis­tant from both major cities, which are among the largest cities in the Pacif­ic Northwest.)

This is far from the first time that an over­height load has struck an over­pass or a bridge sup­port sys­tem on an inter­state in Washington.

In July of 2018, the Danekas Road over­pass on I‑90 near Ritzville was dam­aged by bridge strike, requir­ing WSDOT to com­mis­sion emer­gency repairs.

I‑5’s Skag­it Riv­er Bridge infa­mous­ly col­lapsed in 2013 after a truck struck the bridge, caus­ing a huge amount of dis­rup­tion until a replace­ment bridge was built. (Amaz­ing­ly, no one was killed in the inci­dent, although there were close calls.)

Pri­or to that, in 2007, an over­height truck seri­ous­ly dam­aged an over­pass near Eas­t­on, which is locat­ed between Cle Elum and Sno­qualmie Pass, neces­si­tat­ing its demo­li­tion. The dri­ver of the truck was cit­ed by the Wash­ing­ton State Patrol for vio­lat­ing his trav­el per­mit. WSDOT had to scram­ble quick­ly to find peo­ple and equip­ment to bring the dam­aged bridge down on short notice.

Although WSDOT has repeat­ed­ly remind­ed com­mer­cial dri­vers to do their home­work and to know the exact height of their vehi­cle and the height of all over­pass­es they’ll be dri­ving under, bridge strike inci­dents con­tin­ue to occur reg­u­lar­ly in Wash­ing­ton, caus­ing lots of expen­sive dam­age and incon­ve­nienc­ing the trav­el­ing pub­lic for days or weeks at a time.

Per­haps oper­a­tors of over­height vehi­cles should be required by state law to check in with WSDOT or the Wash­ing­ton State Patrol before set­ting out, and to sub­mit a “dri­ve plan” with their vehi­cle height to a state main­tained app that could repeat­ed­ly warn and remind them when they are approach­ing an over­pass their vehi­cle won’t fit under. It’s sim­ply unac­cept­able that pre­ventable, cost­ly dam­age con­tin­ues to be caused so often by neg­li­gent driving.

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