BURLINGTON — Those who attended a public Q&A about the collapsed Skagit River bridge Thursday night were more complimentary of the Department of Transportation’s recent efforts than critical.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t concerns.
About 30 people attended the meeting at the Burlington City Council chambers, where several DOT officials offered updates on traffic and bridge repair and responded to questions and comments about the process.
The temporary bridge span is expected to be in place about the third week of June, while the permanent replacement is scheduled to go in sometime in September.
Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton began the meeting with a moment of silence for State Patrol Trooper Sean O’Connell, who was killed in Conway Friday evening while directing bridge detour traffic.
“This has been a tough two weeks for us,” Sexton said. The bridge collapsed May 23, and Burlington Boulevard has been a primary detour route for interstate traffic.
Jay Drye, DOT assistant regional administrator, updated the group on the bridge repair process, announcing that most of the debris was removed from the river and that divers will hopefully be able to inspect the bridge piers next week when the river level drops.
He added that some of the concrete pedestals that will support the temporary bridge were filled in Thursday afternoon on the north side of the bridge’s gap. Some damage on the south side has yet to be repaired.
Traffic Engineer Dina Swires said DOT’s efforts to facilitate traffic flow through city streets were made successful by adjusting traffic signals and evaluating daily commute patters.
“We had to find something that would move as efficiently and safely as we could,” Swires said.
Responding to one man’s question about moving farm equipment on local roads, Swires said that agricultural vehicles are exempted from DOT’s oversize load restriction that applies from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.
In response to concerns about detour traffic destroying local roads and highways, she said that road conditions were documented before the detour routes were enacted and that the state will receive reimbursement to repair the roads from the Federal Highway Administration.
Several commenters commended DOT for working within constraints to get traffic moving.
Drye said he was looking forward to finishing the bridge repair.
“There are challenges at times,” he said. “I’m as anxious as anybody else.”