MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — A temporary span on the Interstate 5 bridge that crosses the Skagit River should open this week, less than a month after a section of the bridge collapsed, the state Department of Transportation said.
The fix, then a later permanent repair due this fall, will cost nearly $18 million. The federal Transportation Department is paying for all but about $1 million of the work.
But when the work's all done, Washington will be left with exactly what it had before: A functionally obsolete, fracture-critical 58-year-old bridge that could come crashing down the next time it gets smacked hard enough in the right place.
"While it's going to be in the same (classification of bridge), it's going to be safe to drive on," Travis Phelps, a state Department of Transportation spokesman, told The Herald newspaper in Everett. "We'll continue to inspect our bridges every two years to make sure they are in good shape."
Tearing it down and building a brand spanking new bridge might be desired, but Washington state can't afford it.
"Right now we don't have the funding to replace the bridge," Phelps said.
The framework for the temporary fix is in place, and workers are tightening bolts and welding sections on the structure, which is 24 feet wide and 160 feet long, spokesman Travis Phelps said.
Workers also were installing panels Monday that will be paved with asphalt to form the new bridge deck, Phelps said. They're also finishing repairs and painting remaining sections of the bridge that were hit by a truck with an oversize load.
Some other work remains, such as divers' inspections of the bridge's piers, so the department isn't saying exactly when the bridge will reopen.
Traffic has been detoured through Mount Vernon and Burlington since May 23 when a trucks load struck the north end of the bridge, causing one section to crumble.
The bridge carried 71,000 vehicles a day. The new flow won't be completely back to normal. Because the temporary section is narrower, traffic will be slowed from freeway speed.