MOUNT VERNON — A temporary bridge over the Skagit River will reopen today, restoring Interstate 5 traffic less than a month after the old bridge collapsed.
After the bridge collapsed on May 23, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee set a goal of restoring it by mid-June. He went to Mount Vernon on Tuesday to inspect the span and praised workers for completing in days what normally would have taken months.
The temporary span will carry 99 percent of I-5 traffic, said Washington Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. Oversized and overweight loads will still be detoured.
At 24-feet wide, the 160-foot temporary section is narrower than the old bridge and traffic will have to slow to 40 mph.
Still, staying on I-5 should be a relief to drivers who have lined up to detour through Mount Vernon and Burlington on the main highway for trade and tourism between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia. That section of freeway is used by 71,000 vehicles a day.
The temporary bridge pieces were supplied by Acrow Bridge through an emergency contract the Washington State Department of Transportation signed with Atkinson Construction.
The temporary span and a permanent replacement due this fall will cost nearly $18 million. The federal Transportation Department is paying for all but about $1 million of the work.
The Max Kuney construction company of Spokane was selected Tuesday for the permanent replacement, Peterson said.
The 58-year-old bridge is being restored, not replaced. It will still be rated as “functionally obsolete” because it was not designed to handle today’s traffic volume and big trucks. It’s also “fracture critical,” meaning that if a single, vital component is compromised, the bridge can crumple again.
The driver of an oversized truck felt crowded by another southbound semi-truck on the bridge and the load struck a girder, causing one section of the bridge to fall, a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report said.
A final NTSB report on the cause of the bridge failure is likely months away.
A car and pickup truck went into the water and three people were rescued.