American Elephants

The Skagit River Bridge Collapsed, Not Very Spectacularly. by The Elephant's Child


Oooops! Just in time for the Memorial Day Weekend, one section of the Skagit River Bridge on I-5 near Mt. Vernon in Washington State collapsed. This is north of Seattle, on the way to Vancouver B.C.  It’s not a spectacular bridge. The Skagit is a pretty ordinary river, but very cold this time of year.

It is not on President Obama’s pet list of “crumbling roads and bridges.” A trucker with a too-wide load smacked into the bridge span and sent the truck and a couple of cars into the river. The news staff, always anxious to dramatize, waited breathlessly to speak to “the survivors”, but nobody was badly hurt., just cuts and bruises. People will be using a detour for quite a while, inconveniencing many. This is the main North/South highway, between Canada and Mexico.

Interestingly, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) just proposed an amendment to a transportation bill that would prohibit funds that were appropriated under title 1 from being used for earmarks until all structurally deficient and obsolete bridges had been repaired, with limited exceptions.

What? Deny our earmarking ability? Use transportation money to repair Obama’s crumbling and obsolete bridges? Fie! Our very own two Senators, Murray and Cantwell , voted, with the majority, to table the amendment. We’ll think about it later.

And as the Skagit River Bridge sinks slowly in the West… I’m with senator Coburn. Spend the money on fixing that which needs fixing, and belay the bike paths and squirrel crossings.

6 Comments so far
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Good to hear that nobody was badly hurt. But one can almost bank on it: there will be more serious collapses in the future unless more inspections and urgently needed maintenance are carried out.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

I was watching the news, and I see some have already started blaming the sequester for this collapse. But if I read it correctly, wasn’t this bridge inspected twice in the past year? And passed both times? From what I could see, that type of bridge is what is called “structure critical”, meaning if any part of it failed, the whole thing would fail. Maybe not the best construction standard for a highway bridge, but not especially unusual, either.


Comment by Lon Mead

Yes, it was just inspected, and passed. They started blaming Republicans about 5 minutes after it collapsed (If Republicans has just supported Obama’s infrastructure bill), and switched to the sequester a little later. A trucker with a too-wide load hit a major structural support. As you can see from the picture, it is not a particularly spectacular bridge, the river isn’t that deep, and “the survivors weren’t hurt.” It just didn’t live up to the media’s taste for drama. I don’t know enough about bridge construction (nothing) to know if they can just replace that one span, or have to do a whole new bridge. I heard something on the radio about Gov.Inslee’s people looking for an existing span to put in temporarily. (They have a stock somewhere of spare spans? Who knew?)


Comment by The Elephant's Child

Actually, for that type of bridge, pre-fab sections are fairly simple to make, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them fix it that way until they get the funds to build a new bridge there.

It still irritates me that they are still trying to use this as part of the “crumbling infrastructure” narrative, when what made it “crumble” was getting hit by a truck (having been run over by a truck myself, I certainly do sympathize!).


Comment by Lon Mead

[…] Media, always hotly in pursuit of a dramatic story, made a great deal out of the collapse, which was due to a truck with an extra […]


Pingback by The Skagit River Bridge (temporary) Reopens Tomorrow. | American Elephants

[…] to replace a temporary military style span installed on June 19. We wrote about the collapse on May 24, to point out that it was neither “spectacular” nor was it one of President Obama’s […]


Pingback by The New Skagit River Bridge Is Open for Business | American Elephants

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