Washington State Bridge collapse caused by truck

Local residents line the river banks to look at a span of highway bridge sitting in the Skagit River May 24, 2013 after collapsing near the town of Mt Vernon, Washington late Thursday Credit: Reuters
Local residents line the river banks to look at a span of highway bridge sitting in the Skagit River May 24, 2013 after collapsing near the town of Mt Vernon, Washington late Thursday
Credit: Reuters

A bridge that collapsed in Washington state and sent two cars plunging into the Skagit River, raising concerns about the safety of the nation’s aging infrastructure, was knocked down by a truck that crashed into at least one girder, officials said on Friday.

The truck, after the accident, rumbled across the bridge safely before a portion of the structure gave way, sending a car and pick-up into the frigid river on Thursday evening, along with a mass of concrete and steel. Three people were rescued.

While no one was killed, the collapse of the steel truss bridge built in 1955 prompted renewed calls from lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere for greater investment in the nation’s aging infrastructure.

But Washington state officials said preliminary indications were that the bridge, which was inspected twice last year, was not structurally deficient and fell because of the impact from the truck striking its support beams.

“We had a collision between a very heavy vehicle traveling at probably not a small amount of speed crashing into not just one but probably multiple girders, and it failed,” Governor Jay Inslee told an afternoon press conference in Mount Vernon.

Officials say the bridge, 55 miles north of Seattle, was not among the spans listed by the state as “structurally deficient,” which in some cases relates to bridges that cannot carry their intended traffic loads.

But the privately run National Bridge Inventory Database listed the bridge as “functionally obsolete,” widely defined by public officials as not built to current standards and demands.

“Based on our inspecting, the bridge is not structurally defective,” said Lynn Peterson, state secretary of transportation. “We do take hits on almost every one of our bridges. This is just bad luck where and how it was hit.”

KEY ARTERY

She said there were a number of bridges along Interstate 5 in Washington state rated lower than the bridge that collapsed.

A new bridge that suffered a similar blow would have likely reacted the same way, Washington State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jan Katzenberger said.

U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigators were on the scene of the collapse, which occurred on the four-lane Interstate 5, the principal highway between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada.

The NTSB said its members would inspect the 1,111-foot (339-meter) Warren Truss bridge, which links Mount Vernon and Burlington, including its substructure, deck and superstructure. Underwater inspections would also be conducted, the agency said.

David Goldberg, a spokesman for the nonprofit policy group Transportation for America, said that the bridge’s status as “functionally obsolete” did not necessarily mean that it needed to be replaced but that it might not accommodate modern needs.

“A lot of these older bridges are carrying much more traffic, and heavier traffic, than was envisioned when they were built,” Goldberg said.

“There is no redundancy built in for the key structural elements. So if something happens – being struck by a vehicle or watercraft, a slight tremor, or vibrations from the traffic – it could set off a chain reaction that brings it down,” he said.

The truck driver, identified as 41-year-old William Scott, made it across the bridge and pulled his vehicle to the side of the road after the accident. He has not been arrested and was cooperating with authorities.

Truckers must obtain a permit from the state Department of Transportation to carry an oversize load. The driver also receives a proposed route from the state, Washington State Patrol spokesman Sergeant Kirk Rudeen said.

STATE OF EMERGENCY

An official with Canada-based Mullen Trucking, which employed the truck driver, said state transportation officials had given clearance to take the oversize load across the bridge.

“Hopefully we will get some answers,” said Ed Scherbinski, vice president of operations for Mullen Trucking, adding that the company was sending its own investigative team to the scene.

Scherbinski declined to immediately provide the height of the oversize load the trucker was hauling. The truck had been bound for Vancouver, Washington, he said.

Inslee declared a state of emergency in Skagit County and two neighboring counties, citing the disruption of normal traffic for weeks or months, and said it would cost an estimated $15 million to fully repair the bridge.

Inslee said officials hope to either secure or build a temporary replacement for the 160-foot span of the bridge that collapsed. It would likely take the form of a prefabricated truss bridge known as a Bailey bridge, he said.

“We are searching the entire country right now” for the right piece of infrastructure, he said.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he would make $1 million in federal emergency funds immediately available to Washington state to help repair the bridge.

In August 2007, a bridge fell into the Mississippi River in Minnesota, resulting in the deaths of 13 people and raising concerns about faulty infrastructure in the United States.

A 2013 report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. bridges a grade of C+ and ranked Washington state as having the 11th-highest projected cost to perform what the organization deemed necessary repair or replacement of deficient highway bridges. The cost was pegged at $2.1 billion.

Washington state lawmakers are debating a proposed $8.4 billion transportation funding package championed by Inslee and fellow Democrats. A key point of contention has been whether to pay for a new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River connecting Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.