By Kate Martin
MOUNT VERNON — County and state engineers have inspected a bridge along Best Road on the North Fork of the Skagit River and deemed it safe for traffic.
Cars and trucks have been driving through the area ever since the Skagit River Bridge over Interstate 5 crumpled into the water last week. At one point, the state Department of Transportation sent an official detour through that area for a short time.
Skagit County Commissioner Sharon Dillon expressed concerns about whether the bridge would remain standing if two trucks were on it at the same time.
County engineer Paul Randall-Grutter said engineers gave the green light for the steel bridge, built in 1957.
“It’s pretty old, and it is a fracture-critical bridge, also,” Randall-Grutter said. “If one thing fails, the whole bridge fails.”
That’s what appears to have happened to the I-5 bridge, when a tractor-trailer hauling an overheight load swiped several trusses last week.
Randall-Grutter said the bridge on Best Road has a weight restriction of 120,000 pounds. Loads that require an overweight permit are not allowed on the bridge.
He said the county also is performing more traffic counts on roads across the county. The county hopes to document any damage caused by detour traffic so it can get federal aid money to make repairs.
“All of the different roads we have are designed to have occasional heavy traffic,” said Commissioner Ron Wesen. “But as you get more and more traffic, things wear quicker.”
The city of Mount Vernon also is documenting increased traffic to get federal aid for roads.