Collapse of Skagit River Bridge – Large Canary in the Coal Mine?

With the collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge over Skagit River on May 23, 2013, we should all stop to be thankful that there were no serious injuries or deaths in this incident. However, is this incident a large canary in the coal mine? What should be done to prevent this from happening again? In an era of budget cuts and political gridlock, is the government providing sufficient funding for maintenance of our bridges and roads?

The bridge at issue was built in 1955 and listed by the Federal Highway Administration as “functionally obsolete.” This is a category for bridges that have narrow lanes, shoulders or spans, and do not provide enough vertical clearance for tall trucks or oversized loads. Is that the kind of bridge that should span a river on a major interstate in our state? This is not some back road – this is a major interstate.

Commenting on the problem, Governor Jay Inslee stated in a news conference: “We have some work to do on our bridges whether or not this accident happened, and we have some discussions in Olympia . . . about making sure that we make investments in bridges to prevent this kind of thing from happening.”

As lawyers representing motorist injured or killed due to unsafe roadways, bridges, and highways, we hope this incident will shine needed light on this serious problem. It is time to demand that our leaders come together in Olympia, put aside politics, and roll up their sleeves to get more funding for maintenance of our bridges, ferries, roads, and highways. This is a safety issue for everyone and ignoring the issue will only cost more lives and needless injury. Please join us in asking our leaders to devote more funding to highway, road, and ferry safety.

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