Skagit River Bridge will get permanent replacement span on Saturday night

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BURLINGTON — After months of traffic jams and reduced speed limits, the summer saga of the Interstate 5 Skagit River Bridge is coming to an end. If things go as planned, drivers in Skagit County will have a new span to drive over on Sunday morning.

A rail system will slide the 900-ton permanent replacement span into place Saturday night, the state Department of Transportation announced Monday morning.

The bridge will be closed from 7 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday between College Way in Mount Vernon and George Hopper Road in Burlington.

A northern section of the Interstate 5 bridge collapsed into the Skagit River on May 23 after an overheight load struck critical steel supports. Three people were rescued from the water and survived.

A temporary replacement span reopened the bridge June 19, but the regional economy took a hit.

Starting Monday, Sept. 16, one or both directions of the bridge could be closed at night as contractor crews retrofit the overhead bridge supports. This work is expected to take about two months.

Detours will be the same as when the bridge was out this summer. DOT recommends building in extra travel time.

“Moving bridges is not easy,” DOT assistant regional administrator Jay Drye said. “Drivers need to stay engaged and plan for detours.”

Workers expect to finish the final step before the switch, pouring the span’s concrete deck, early in the week.

The closure could extend past the planned 12 hours if complications arise, according to the announcement. DOT recommends drivers check to ensure the road has reopened before traveling Sunday.

Updates on the detour schedule, work progress and traffic conditions are available on DOT’s website, wsdot.wa.gov.

To switch out the spans, crews will use hydraulic jacks that slide on Teflon pads and long steel rails. This system will move the two temporary spans out of the way, then slide the new span into place from the west, lower it and lock it into place.

About 71,000 vehicles travel the Interstate 5 corridor through Skagit County every day.