UPDATE: Skagit River I-5 bridge work waiting on OK from NTSB

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New Jersey-based Acrow Bridge found itself in the right place at the right time when it became subcontractor for construction of a temporary replacement bridge on the Interstate 5 crossing of the Skagit River near Mount Vernon.

The bridge-building company had opened a one-person office in Camas and a large warehouse in Washougal this spring so it could more quickly respond to customers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other western states. This week, it was able to quickly ship two truckloads of bridge parts from a Washougal storage site to the Skagit River, If the company hadn’t opened the site in Clark County, the parts would have had to come from facilities in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, said Bill Killeen, Acrow’s CEO.

When the company opened in Clark County, “we wanted to be a storage facility where we could more quickly mobilize on the West Coast, so it was ideal,” Killeen said Thursday.

Acrow expects to expand its staff presence in Clark County as needed, Killeen said.

MOUNT VERNON — Nearly all the materials for a temporary Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River have arrived at the site and the Washington Transportation Department hopes to meet the governor’s goal of spanning a collapsed section by mid-June, officials said.

Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson told a telephone town hall Wednesday night that work can begin as soon as the National Transportation Safety Board finishes its site investigation, The Skagit Valley Herald reported.

A section of the bridge collapsed May 23 after a girder was struck by an oversize load on a truck. Traffic is being detoured through Mount Vernon and Burlington, creating a roadblock on the main trade and tourism route between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.

Kelly Nantel of the NTSB said Thursday that it had no information to release on when its investigation would be complete. An interview with the driver of a pilot car for the truck had been scheduled Wednesday but had to be rescheduled.

“They need to release the site to us and we need to get in the water and inspect the piers and see what shape they’re in,” state Transportation Department spokeswoman Abbi Russell said from Shoreline. “If they’re sound, we can start looking at what the temporary structure will look like.”

Work is continuing with all possible speed. Divers worked overnight Wednesday in cold, murky water to remove jagged pieces of the fallen bridge deck. Some girders still underwater have to be preserved for NTSB inspectors, she said.

Work will continue through the weekend. Some pieces of the temporary structure can be assembled off-site and rolled into place later.

The temporary bridge will replace the 160-foot section that fell into the water. That will reopen two lanes in each direction. A permanent replacement this fall should restore the bridge.

Federal money is paying for the temporary span and 91 percent of the replacement. But there are no plans for a new and improved bridge to replace the 58-year-old structure. Peterson told the Mount Vernon teleconference that there are a lot more bridges in Washington in worse shape.

Meanwhile, traffic delays are easing on the detours around the fallen bridge, which carried 71,000 vehicles a day.

“People are getting into a routine,” Russell said. “We still have backups here and there.” Afternoons seem a little more congested than mornings, she said.