Feds release $15.6 million for bridge repair work

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Mount Vernon -- The federal government has made $15.6 million in emergency funds available to repair the Skagit River Bridge.

U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and U.S. Reps. Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene announced in a press release Thursday that the funds, from the federal Department of Transportation, will be used on both a temporary span for the collapsed section of bridge and a permanent fix.

Officials plan to open the temporary span by June 22 and have a permanent fix in place by Oct. 1.

Jay Drye, assistant regional administrator for the state Department of Transportation, said June 3 that the temporary span will cost an estimated $450,000, while initial estimates on a permanent structure are $15 million.

The federal DOT Emergency Relief program provides emergency funding for highway repair after natural disasters or catastrophic failures from an external cause.

The funds can only be issued after a declaration of emergency.

Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency for Skagit, Whatcom and Snohomish counties May 24, a day after an oversized load on a tractor-trailer smashed into critical steel supports for the bridge, causing a 160-foot section to collapse into the Skagit River.

"Today's announcement is great news for Washington state families and businesses who rely on I-5 every day," Murray said. "It's also an important step for communities in Northwest Washington whose local economies have paid the price in the wake of this collapse."

Larsen said in the release that $38 million in trade cargo between the United States and Canada passes over the Skagit River every day.

Since the bridge collapsed, an estimated 71,000 vehicles per day have been diverted along local roads. Some businesses along the detour routes have recorded sales losses of between 30 and 80 percent.

"Over the last few weeks, the community and local businesses around the Skagit Valley have done a tremendous job coping with the disruption and delays caused by the bridge collapse," DelBene said in the press release. "The community has done everything possible to keep Skagit County open for business, but reopening the corridor is key.