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Redesign planned for Skagit River Bridge

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BURLINGTON, Wash. — Construction work continues on the Skagit River Bridge nearly two months after an oversized load struck the structure and sent portions of the steel deck, two cars and three people into the river.

skagitThanks to some cash from the federal government, the Washington State Department of Transportation plans a redesign to keep other accidents like this from happening again.

The truck that brought that bridge down struck one of the arches — what engineers call a sway frame — and those arches make the clearance shorter on the outside lane than the inside lane.

WSDOT plans to remove all of the arches making the clearance the same height across the bridge.

“This bridge was hit because the over height load was in the wrong lane,” Todd Harrison with WSDOT said.

Beginning in September, all the arches on the bridge will be removed and replaced.

“We’re going to modify (the bridge) in order to take the vertical clearance straight across. So we’ll have a minimum 18-foot vertical clearance all across the width of the bridge,” WSDOT engineer Jay Drye said.

The $4.5 million price tag will be covered by the Federal Emergency Fund and WSDOT, but the trucking company involved in the accident could also be on the hook for reimbursing the cost of repairs.

“With what happened here, it emphasized the fact that there is a risk when we have over-sized vehicles using this route,” Drye said. “We know there’s going to continue to be more oversized loads that use this route. Freight is only going to increase with time. So this type of work will diminish the risk of having this type of incident in the future.”

The permanent replacement bridge is to be put in place shortly after Labor Day on Sept. 2, and the redesign construction of the arches will be started after that. The entire project should be completed by mid-November.

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