MOUNT VERNON — It will be months before a replacement bridge can be erected across the Skagit River, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kris Olsen said early this morning.
Meanwhile, more details are emerging about the driver of the rig that struck the bridge.
Washington State Patrol Trooper Mark Francis said the 44-year-old driver works for Mullen Trucking in Alberta, Canada, and is from the city of Spruce Grove, Alberta.
Francis said the truck was marked as an oversized load, and the top right front corner of the load struck several trusses on the bridge. The rig was a flat-bed truck hauling a drilling equipment housing to Vancouver, Wash., Francis said.
So far, the State Patrol does not know if the man was speeding. His name is not being released because he has not been charged with a crime. The incident remains under investigation, Francis said.
“He gave a voluntary blood draw, and it appears he will be released after he is done with his statements and interviews,” Francis said at about 1 a.m. Friday.
In the coming weeks and months, DOT will investigate how the bridge collapsed. This will involve removing the pieces of the bridge and putting it all back together, Olsen said.
“Until we can really get in there and pull the bridge out and put all of the pieces together, we won’t know what caused it to go down,” she said.
A national bridge inventory rated the bridge in 2000 and 2010 as functionally obsolete, but that just means the bridge is outdated, she said.
“Many of our bridges are structurally obsolete or deficient,” Olsen said. “That’s because they carry more traffic than they are intended to. If we believed a bridge was not safe, we would not let it remain open.”
The short-term fate of the region remains unclear as traffic will wind through less-traveled roads throughout Skagit County.
“Interstate 5 is the backbone of Washington state,” Olsen said. “You have a lot of freight that goes up and down I-5. … I-5 carries more traffic than any other interstate in the state. To lose a part of it is a huge blow. That’s why we want to get something up and going as quick as we can.”
People should avoid the area if they can. If not, Olsen said drivers should give themselves extra time.
“It’s not something we’re going to be doing in a week,” Olsen said. “It’s going to involve a long detour for people.”
County and city leaders were also discussion potential routes for local traffic. More details are expected today.