By Krista J. Kapralos, Herald Writer
A 75-year-old bridge that carries U.S. 2 over the Skykomish River east of Gold Bar is considered “functionally obsolete,” but state transportation officials said Thursday that annual inspections ensure that it is safe.
“It’s an older bridge, but our bridge people take good care of it,” said Melanie Coon, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation. “We don’t have any repairs planned.”
The bridge was designated obsolete because it has only one lane for each direction of traffic, she said.
It doesn’t mean the bridge is unsafe, she said, “it just means that bridge needs attention in the future.”
About a quarter of the state’s 3,000 bridges are either “functionally obsolete” or “structurally deficient,” according to a report released two years ago by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Those bridges could have lanes that are too narrow to comply with current federal guidelines, said Sue Lane of the American Society of Civil Engineers. They could also be incapable of handling modern traffic, she said.
State transportation officials acknowledged Thursday that there are “problem child” bridges in Washington state, but said Snohomish County’s bridges are sturdy.
“Bridges have been a high priority for us for a long time,” said state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island. “I don’t think there’s any serious (problem) in Snohomish County.”
Gov. Chris Gregoire asked Thursday for a report on the condition of the state’s bridges. Her request came hours after an interstate bridge collapsed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night, killing at least four people and injuring dozens more as they fell into the Mississippi River below.
“While we do not know the cause of the collapse in Minnesota, this is a reminder to everyone in the country that infrastructure is important,” Gregoire said in a statement.
“Our priority is to ensure the safety and maintenance of infrastructure in our state,” she said.
Paula Hammond, the acting transportation department secretary, said the report could be ready for Gregoire within days.
Photographs of the buckled bridge in Minneapolis reminded Haugen, chairwoman of the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee, of bridges closer to home.
“I looked at that and thought about the (Alaskan Way) Viaduct and the 520 bridge,” she said.
Haugen said the Legislature has allocated money for both bridges, but it’s unclear how or when either will be renovated.
“The viaduct is a problem child for us,” Coon said. “We inspect it thoroughly every six months.”
The viaduct and the Highway 520 floating bridge are of particular concern, transportation department spokesman Lloyd Brown said.
Both are potentially unsafe because of the region’s earthquake danger. The floating bridge is at risk due to age, wind and waves.
Though some of Snohomish County’s bridges are considered obsolete, none pose serious risks, Haugen said.
The Mark Clark Bridge, which connects Camano Island to the rest of the state, is obsolete because it is nearly 60 years old, she said.
An $18 million replacement bridge is expected to be built in 2011, she said.
Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or email@example.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.