Slow going for southbound Bellingham travelers after bridge collapse

Hint: Plan extra time for your trip

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 24, 2013 

The Skagit River bridge collapse has shut down a section of Interstate 5 just south of Highway 20 between Burlington and Mount Vernon.

Officials are encouraging drivers to avoid the area if possible. About 71,000 vehicles use that stretch of freeway each day, so rerouting all of those would lead to heavy backups and long delays on other routes. On Friday backups were extensive along the freeway detours.

If you must go through that area, here are some alternate routes along with other forms of transportation that can be used.

BY CAR

Detours are in place around the collapse area, with signs directing drivers. Try to travel at off-peak times to avoid the longest delays. For a map of these options, go to wsdot.wa.gov.

Interstate 5

Southbound I-5 is closed at George Hopper Road. Exit there, go south on Burlington Boulevard (turns into Riverside Drive) and west on East College Way to get back on the freeway.

Northbound I-5 is closed at East College Way. Exit there, go north on Riverside Drive and then west on George Hopper to get back on the freeway.

Highway 20

Southbound, exit onto Highway 20 heading west, go south on Best Road, east on Fir Island Road back to the freeway.

Northbound, take exit 221 to exit onto Fir Island Road going west, turn right onto Best Road heading north, then go east on Highway 20 back to the freeway.

Highway 9

Highway 9 runs several miles east of Interstate 5 from the Sumas area to just north of Woodinville. In Whatcom County it can be reached via Badger Road (the highway is called Nooksack Road in that area), Everson-Goshen Road and Mount Baker Highway (turn right onto the highway at Nugent's Corner).

The highway goes south through Van Zandt and Acme and enters Skagit County near Sedro-Woolley. It can be accessed from the south via East College Way (Highway 538) or Fir Island Road (Highway 534).

BY BUS

The Whatcom Transportation Authority express bus from Bellingham to Mount Vernon now makes its last stop at the Chuckanut Park and Ride in north Burlington. Before the collapse it went into Mount Vernon.

Riders bound for Mount Vernon on the 80X will transfer to Skagit Transit's 208 bus at the park and ride, said Maureen McCarthy, WTA spokeswoman. Riders can make the transfer at no extra charge.

The 208 takes passengers to Skagit Station in downtown Mount Vernon. Commuters returning to Bellingham from Mount Vernon will make the reverse trip, taking the 208 from Skagit Station to Chuckanut Park and Ride, where they will transfer to the 80X.

The 80X was leaving Bellingham on time Friday morning. The bus from Mount Vernon was coming into Bellingham about 15 minutes late on Friday, McCarthy said.

The trip from Bellingham to Mount Vernon is scheduled to take 23 minutes longer with the transfer.

WTA officials won't have a good sense of the timing of the route until Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, McCarthy said.

More information is at ridewta.com, which also has a link to schedules on Skagit Transit's website.

WTA officials will monitor the effectiveness of this route change over the coming weeks.

"We'll see how that goes. It could continue to work," McCarthy said.

Greyhound buses run through the area every day. As of Friday the schedules had not been adjusted, and spaces on the bus were available for upcoming days. Go to greyhound.com for information and booking.

BoltBus offers nonstop service from Bellingham to Seattle. Go to boltbus.com for schedules and booking.

SEA-TAC AIRPORT SHUTTLE

For the Airporter Shuttle, the collapse of the Skagit River bridge on Interstate 5 was a close call.

One of its buses heading south to Seattle crossed the bridge about three minutes before the incident that led to the bridge collapse Thursday evening, May 23, said Adrienne Booth, director of sales and marketing for the company.

"We feel quite fortunate to have averted that (collapse)," Booth said.

The Ferndale-based company, which has shuttles making 11 roundtrips between Whatcom County and SeaTac airport each day, began making adjustments right after the bridge collapse.

Booth said the first few runs after the collapse went fairly smoothly, with some delays of around 20 minutes on some of the trips. They will be looking into what needs to be done to adjust schedules to make up for potential traffic delays in the coming days. The company is also considering the idea of adding an express run directly between Bellingham and the Seattle airport.

This weekend they plan to "just bear down" and do what they can to get through this with as little inconvenience as possible to passengers, Booth said.

The company also handles charter services in this region through Bellair Charters. Schedule changes also are possible with those charters..

"This is a busy time of year for charter service," she said.

Bellair can be found online at airporter.com or call 1-866-235-5247.

BY PLANE

Alaska Airlines announced reduced last-minute fares for flights between Bellingham and SeaTac airport through June 1 in response to the bridge collapse. To book a $99 one-way fare, go to alaskaair.com.

Port of Bellingham Executive Director Rob Fix said Alaska Airlines has pledged to add capacity and possible additional flights between Bellingham and Seattle if demand picks up.

BY TRAIN

Amtrak Cascades will add one round-trip route between Seattle and Bellingham in the coming weeks to help people get between the two cities. It will be a morning departure from Seattle with an early evening return from Bellingham. Details are still being worked out.

Amtrak Cascades already provides four trips each day over the Skagit River Rail Bridge, which is fully functional. Amtrak Cascades Thruway buses add 10 more trips through the area. For schedules, reservations and tickets, go online to AmtrakCascades.com or call 800-USA-RAIL.


DETOUR MAP


View I-5 Skagit River Bridge Detour in a larger map


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