I-5 bridge across Columbia 'functionally obsolete' but safe, ODOT says

I-5 bridge across Columbia 'functionally obsolete' but safe, ODOT says »Play Video
In this Aug. 4, 2011, file photo, taken in Portland, Ore., traffic crosses the Interstate 5 bridge spanning the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. – After the bridge over the Skagit River in Washington collapsed Thursday night, it begs the question whether the Interstate 5 bridge connecting Portland to Vancouver could collapse, as well.

The short answer from the Oregon Department of Transportation is "our bridges are safe."

Just like the Skagit bridge, the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River is classified as "functionally obsolete." But according to ODOT, old does not mean unsafe.

The I-5 bridge southbound lanes opened in 1917, making it 96 years old. It's the oldest Interstate bridge in the area and it gets the most attention from ODOT.

Full time crews maintain the bridge. It goes through a detailed inspection every two years.

The last thorough inspection was just last summer.

It is categorized as "functionally obsolete." That sounds bad but according to ODOT that does not mean the bridge is unsafe. It means it was built to outdated construction standards: narrow lanes, narrow shoulders and not built for the volume of traffic these days.

ODOT says the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River is safe. And it declined to comment any further about the Washington bridge collapse on Thursday night because it's too early to tell if anything about that bridge collapse will affect how ODOT analyzes our bridges.

Learn more about the conditions of our bridges: