Dear Friends and Neighbors,
By now, I'm sure you are aware of the collapse last night of the north section of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River between Mount Vernon and Burlington. Early reports are that an oversized trailer of a semi-truck hit a key section of the span, causing it to collapse, and sending a car, a pickup and a camper trailer into the river. I am very thankful for the first responders who were able to rescue three people from their vehicles in the river. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families as they recover.
The question that is on everyone's mind today is, “What's next?” Although the bridge is not in the 10th District, it is close enough that we will all be impacted in some way. I want you to know that Sen. Bailey, Rep. Smith and I are working with the governor, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), our other state representatives, and our local leaders to address the hardships and inconveniences that are the result of this terrible circumstance. A few minutes ago, we issued a joint press statement to the news media on this crisis.
This morning, we were on the phone in a conference call with Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene, Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste, and Washington Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. I took some notes from that call, so here's what I can share with you from that discussion:
- A nationwide search is under way for a temporary replacement option, including a possible “Bailey Bridge;”
- U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has pledged a $1 million federal appropriation to assist with immediate needs;
- Designated detours are in place. Click here to visit the WSDOT Web site for detour information;
- Bridge assessment reports have also been posted on WSDOT Web site. Click here for that information;
- Local shopping and services are still intact. Constituents are encouraged to support local stores. (See the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce Web site and the Burlington Chamber of Commerce Web site for retail information);
- WSDOT Secretary Peterson also told state officials that funding is available from a highway emergency relief fund of 90 percent federal match and a 10 percent state match.
- We remain appreciative and impressed by the great inter-local initial response to this emergency involving federal, state, county and municipal agencies, as well as fire and law enforcement. All levels of government that participated in today's conference call are willing and ready to help;
- No structural deficiencies caused this collapse. The load on the trailer simply hit in the correct place to cause the bridge's superstructure to collapse;
- Emergency contracts are being drafted at the federal and state level to allow temporary replacement, as well as the subsequent permanent replacement;
- Repair and replacement costs are indeterminate until more details are determined; and
- Emergency streamlined permitting is available at the federal level.
Although your government leaders are working as quickly and efficiently as possible, there is no getting around the fact that it is going to take time to investigate the collapse, remove the damaged structure from the river, and find out what temporary solutions are available for the safe and effective movement of commuters and commerce. It will also take time to mitigate potential problems for our local communities, businesses and schools. So we appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through these issues.
If you have questions, concerns or comments, my door is always open and I invite you to contact my office. I also encourage you to visit the WSDOT Web site for additional information at: www.wsdot.wa.gov.