By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
BURLINGTON — The I-5 bridge over the Skagit River opened early Wednesday morning. At 7 a.m. traffic was moving smoothly in both directions. Despite the 40 mph speed limit there were no backups or slowdowns.
Detours signs in Mount Vernon and Burlington remain up, but traffic on streets around the bridge was moving well and without the congestion common during the bridge closure.
Motorists, merchants and residents were relieved to have I-5 fully open for the first time since the bridge collapsed on May 23 when it was struck by a truck with an oversized load.
At North Cove Coffee in Burlington, barista Rhaelynn Givens, 24, said all her regular customers were showing up.
“I’m happy that it feels like a normal day here,” she said. “A lot of our regulars stuck with us through the bridge closure, but I think we’ll see a lot of others back now.”
Jason Becktel, 29, who lives on Burlington Boulevard on the detour route, was pleased.
“I’ve been trying not to go into Mount Vernon. I couldn’t even take a left into my driveway. The bridge opening is friggin’ awesome. I’m way happy. It took me 45 minutes to go to the grocery store. That traffic just sucked,” he said.
Drivers should be aware that each direction of the temporary span is narrower, and has been reduced from two 12-foot lanes with 3-foot shoulders, to two 11-foot lanes with 1-foot shoulders, the state Department of Transportation said in a press release.
Freight haulers carrying legal loads will not be detoured off I-5, but oversized or overweight loads must exit and use the marked detour route.