Washington state bridge collapses, throwing cars into water

May 24, 2013 – WASHINGTON - The Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River collapsed Thursday evening, dropping three vehicles into the water and injuring at least three people. Both the northbound and southbound portions of the bridge collapsed into the river sometime before 7 p.m., according to Washington State Patrol trooper Mark Francis. Marcus Deyerin of the Northwest Washington Incident Management Team said a number of cars were on the bridge at the time of the collapse, and three vehicles were dumped into the river.
Xavier Grospe, 62, who lives near the river, said he could see three cars with what appeared to be one person per vehicle. The vehicles were sitting still in the water, partially submerged and partly above the waterline, and the apparent drivers were sitting either on top of the vehicles or on the edge of open windows. “It doesn’t look like anybody’s in danger right now,” Grospe said. Rescue crews in at least three boats were able to pull three people from the semi-submerged vehicles, which are tangled in the wreckage of the bridge. All three were taken to a local hospital and the extent of their injuries is not known. Nobody was killed in the collapse. Bart Treece with the Washington State Department of Transportation was unsure when the bridge was last inspected. “All of our bridges in the area are pretty old,” he said. The bridge is not considered structurally deficient but is listed as being “functionally obsolete” – a category meaning that their design is outdated, such as having narrow shoulders are low clearance underneath, according to a database compiled by the Federal Highway Administration. The bridge was built in 1955 and has a sufficiency rating of 57.4 out of 100, according to federal records. That is well below the statewide average rating of 80, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data, but 759 bridges in the state have a lower sufficiency score. According to a 2012 Skagit County Public Works Department, 42 of the county’s 108 bridges that are 50 years or older. The document says eight of the bridges are more than 70 years old and two are over 80. Washington state was given a C in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 infrastructure report card and a C- when it came to the state’s bridges. The group said more than a quarter of Washington’s 7,840 bridges are considered structurally deficient of functionally obsolete. WSDOT’s Travis Phelps said his department is already speaking with contractors to rebuild the bridge, but he cautioned that the bridge will be out of commission for the foreseeable future. “This is going to be a long-term situation, so don’t expect this to be fixed by Monday,” he said. WSDOT bridge inspectors are now trying to determine what caused the collapse. They’re investigating reports that an oversized truck hit a portion of the bridge just prior to the collapse. –KOMO News