Truck hauling excavator hits I-5 overpass near Birch Bay

An excavator being hauled by a flatbed truck struck and damaged the Birch Bay-Lynden Road overpass of Interstate 5 on Thursday morning, May 21.

The impact at about 10:35 a.m. sent chunks of concrete into the right-hand southbound lane, forcing officials to close that lane for several hours.

The westbound lane of the Birch Bay-Lynden Road overpass also was shut down, according to Tom Pearce of the Washington State Department of Transportation. That lane will remain closed until repairs can be made. Temporary traffic signals will alternate traffic in the eastbound lane.

Three or four cars that ran over the concrete debris were damaged, though no one was injured, according to Washington State Patrol Trooper Mark Francis.

After the impact, the truck that was hauling the excavator pulled off the freeway into the Custer Rest Area, where troopers interviewed the driver, Francis said.

Douglas J. Bianchi, 54, of Mount Vernon had picked up the excavator in Blaine and was southbound when the equipment struck the overpass, Francis said.

The investigation showed the excavator on the flatbed reached a height of 16 feet 7 inches. The overpass is 15 feet 11 inches, Francis said.

“He should have lowered the boom (on the excavator) and he would have made it,” Francis said.

Inspectors from the WSDOT Bridge Preservation Office spent the afternoon assessing the damage. The impact exposed rebar on the underside of the overpass.

They determined one of the overpass’ girders will need to be replaced, a project that will cost $1 million or more. It was not immediately clear how quickly permanent repairs will be made.

Bianchi was getting the excavator for Bianchi Construction out of Mount Vernon. He or the company could be liable for the overpass repair costs, plus the amount for fixing the damaged cars.

Troopers cited Bianchi for a load over the legal height limit, which carries a $144 fine, Francis said.