Divers removing sunken I-5 Skagit River bridge



Construction workers wait as divers check out the deck of the bridge down below the water Tuesday in Mount Vernon, figuring out the way to break it up following the collapse of a section of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River last week.

MOUNT VERNON — Divers probably have a couple of days more work removing the collapsed section of the Interstate 5 bridge from the bottom of the Skagit River, the Washington Transportation Department said Friday.

It’s slow work, using heavy equipment to break up the pavement in cold, murky water, spokesman Travis Phelps said.

Workers also have to take care to preserve girders the National Transportation Safety Board needs for its investigation of the May 23 accident.

When the NTSB clears the site, the state Transportation Department will inspect piers. If they’re OK, a contractor can fill in a collapsed section with a temporary 160-foot span.

The department is still on track to reopen two lanes of the freeway in each direction by mid-June, Phelps said from an office in Shoreline.

The bridge crumbled when a girder was struck by an oversize truck. The truck made it off the bridge, but two other vehicles carrying three people went into the river. All three people were able to escape as their vehicles filled with frigid water. They were rescued with minor injuries.

Workers with Acrow Bridges are doing as much as they can until the site is released by the NTSB. They are assembling portions of the temporary span on land and are preparing to roll it into place, Phelps said.

Calls and email to NTSB spokesman Friday morning were not immediately returned.

The bridge was used by 71,000 vehicles a day. While the bridge is out, traffic is detoured through Mount Vernon and Burlington, causing delays for trucks and tourists traveling between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The department plans to replace the temporary span and restore the bridge in the fall. There are no plans for an all-new structure to replace the 58-year-old bridge.