New I-5 bridge section over Skagit River opens

MOUNT VERNON — Four months after a section of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River collapsed, crews installed a new section on Sunday, swapping a temporary 500-ton span with a 900-ton permanent one.

The bridge, which was closed overnight for the installation, re-opened to traffic at 2 p.m. Sunday, the state Department of Transportation said. The original target hour for the re-opening was 7 a.m., but the complicated swap took longer than expected.

Crews used a system of hydraulic jacks, Teflon pads and long steel rails to lift and move the temporary section and replace it with the permanent one.

Officials have been working toward this moment ever since an oversize truck load hit the bridge on May 23, sending one 160-foot section and two vehicles with three people into the water. No one was killed. Traffic was detoured for a month through Mount Vernon and Burlington until a temporary span was installed.

The collapse severed one of the key transportation links in Washington, carrying roughly 70,000 vehicles a day.

The total cost of removing the temporary span and installing a permanent replacement is $8.5 million — paid by federal emergency relief funds. Along with the permanent span installation, the state is planning additional nighttime bridge closures in the coming weeks so that crews can retrofit the overhead bridge supports.

While the permanent section is in place, DOT spokesman Travis Phelps said the speed limit will be temporarily lower than 60 miles per hour while the new section is monitored.

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