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Temporary I-5 Skagit River bridge opens

Governor Jay Inslee and State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson examined the temporary bridge Tuesday, and announced the temporary span will open Wednesday. (KIRO Radio/Brandi Kruse)

Less than a month after it went tumbling down into the Skagit River, a bridge connects the two sides of Interstate 5.

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.

“This is something Washington can be proud of, to be able to do this, to use those improvisational skills that we’re not taught in engineering school to get this job done,” said Inslee. “Everybody pitched in and did great work.”

Traffic has been detoured since May 23 when a truck with and oversize load struck the bridge and caused it to collapse.

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. The section of the freeway is used by 71,000 vehicles a day.

The temporary span will carry 99 percent of I-5 traffic, said 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.

The temporary span cost $2 million and was paid for by the Federal Department of Transporation.

The state has awarded the contract for the permanent bridge to Max J. Kuney Construction out of Spokane. Their bid of $6.875 million came in well under the $13 million budgeted.

The federal government will pay for 90 percent of the final cost, with the state picking up the remaining 10 percent. The state may also seek compensation from the trucking company whose oversize load caused the original bridge to collapse.

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.

Travis Phelps with the Washington State Department of Transportation says work will start on a permanent replacement pretty quickly with the goal of moving the permanent replacement into place sometime after the Labor Day weekend.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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