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Crews remove I-5 bridge pieces from Skagit River with investigation in mind

Workers are fighting gusty winds and the fast moving Skagit River Tuesday morning as they remove pieces of the collapsed Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River.

On Monday, crews began removing the mangled steel, crumpled pavement and cars that fell into the river when the collapsed.

Hydraulic shears are cutting away the metal beams and cranes are removing them, secured only to two barges anchored in the Skagit River.

KIRO Radio reporter Chris Sullivan watched crews at the scene and said it’s “tricky work.”

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Bart Treece, crews are removing specific pieces of the the fallen span first.

“The NTSB has certain parts that they have identified and we’re removing those, trying to keep those intact so they can complete their investigation,” Treece explained. “But once they complete that we can really go full force and complete that in demoing the bridge.”

The Washington Department of Transportation said the fallen section has to be removed before final inspection of the spans still standing can begin.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Sunday that the state plans to have temporary spans built and installed on the bridge, but before that work begins the remaining spans must clear inspection.

Once the twisted metal and chunks of the concrete bridge deck are removed, and after the inspection, work can begin on the temporary span. The state hopes to have it open for traffic by mid-June.

The section of the I-5 bridge collapsed Thursday, sending cars and people into the water. All survived with non-life threatening injuries.

The Canadian border north of Bellingham is the nation’s fourth busiest land border port of entry to the north. Agriculture products, lumber, lumber-related products and manufactured goods related to aircraft dominate the freight crossing this Washington-Canada border.

Of the 71,000 vehicles that cross the Skagit River bridge daily, an estimated 12 percent is commercial traffic, Cantwell said.

Those numbers have increased significantly since 2001, with Canadian traffic coming south more than doubling during that time.

KIRO Radio’s Chris Sullivan and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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