Senator: Bridge collapse wake-up call for Columbia I-5 bridge

Senator: Bridge collapse wake-up call for Columbia I-5 bridge

VANCOUVER, Wash. – The dramatic collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River should serve as a wake-up call that officials need to replace the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River soon, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said Friday.

Murray, D-Washington, is leading the charge in the battle for a new bridge and for funding of infrastructure projects.

As she told KATU in an interview Friday, she’s been pushing for a new I-5 bridge for more than 20 years. There’s a design in place, both Oregon and Washington have agreed on a location and there’s allocated funding for the project.

But, Murray said, that’s not enough. She had some harsh words for Washington lawmakers, whom she said have not done their part.

“It’s a safety issue. It’s an economic issue. It needs to be replaced,” she said. “The federal government has stepped up. Oregon has stepped up. Washington State needs to step up. We have a responsibility to take care of our infrastructure.”

The I-5 bridge is currently classified as “structurally obsolete,” meaning that if it were built today, it wouldn’t be up to code.

Murray said if this bridge were to be shut down for safety reasons – or worst-case scenario, suffered a collapse – it would hurt freeway travel as well as small businesses on both sides of the river.

As for the Skagit River bridge, Murray announced the allocation of millions of dollars to replace it. The federal government will provide $15.6 million in emergency funds to pay for repairs. Of that amount, $450,000 will go toward erecting a temporary bridge, which officials hope will be completed next weekend.