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.
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.
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.