The Impact of the Skagit Bridge Collapse

I live in the Bellingham (Washington) area. Bellingham is a college town on the water and only an hour drive from the mountains, almost half way between Seattle and Vancouver BC. I wrote most of this post last Friday. The day after the I5 Skagit Bridge collapse.

Now how am I supposed to get to Bellingham?

This was circulating around Facebook last Friday. What I was thinking was “Now how am I supposed to leave Bellingham?”

Note: Skagit is pronounced as if the “g” were a “j”, and the a is soft as in apple. Ska(pple)-jit

I live roughly half way between the Canadian border and the bridge (which is no longer) over the Skagit River in Burlington. You’ve probably heard about it in the news (Seattle, Canada, England).

I am so happy that no one died in the collapse and that the people who were injured were in stable condition this morning. Timing could have been much worse. An hour earlier and traffic would have been heavier. A day later and traffic would have been terrible. Middle of the night, and there wouldn’t have been the same visibility to rescue people from the river.

What keeps going through my mind is how sweet it was that one of my brothers called. “Heh, did you hear? About the bridge?”

It was his way of saying “Yay! You called me back, you weren’t there.” He’s sweet even if he doesn’t want to admit it.

I am curious (and a bit worried) about how the bridge outage will impact daily life, and how it will impact our local economy.

On a personal level, until the bridge is fixed I will definitely be visiting family to the south less frequently. In good traffic the detours will take half an hour to an hour, making the drive to my mom’s about 2-2.5 hours. Each direction.

This will happen because I5 is the primary north-south road in NW Washington. There aren’t many alternate routes (especially in the Burlington area and north), and none of them are capable of handling the volume of traffic that typically uses the bridge (apparently 71000 cars per day).

Not to mention the semis. I5 is the primary route for trade between BC and the Seattle area. I have no idea how many Semis travel that stretch of road, but I do know that Burlington and Mt Vernon’s small town streets are the best path for them to take (I really feel for people who live there).

The best alternates that avoid town are two lane highways. One is windy, forested, and really not friendly to heavy traffic or big trucks. The other is a nice straight farm highway, and the traffic will probably not mix well with the farm tractors in the area.

A lot has happened in the past week. One of the highlights is a temporary bridge span is planned to be placed in the next several weeks. I’m excited about that because it means I can get back to visiting family and friends down south every few weeks without worrying as much about the traffic.

Another image circulating on Facebook.

Another image circulating on Facebook.

It also means my original concern, and the entire reason I started this post, will become a (mostly) irrelevant. My concern was that the increased travel time (which isn’t quite as bad as I’d expected, based upon what I’m hearing around the office) and travel distance would cause an increase in costs over the next year, and that those increases would be passed along to the consumers.

Semis will still need to detour around the temporary bridge, but the detour won’t be required for the average driver so it will be faster for everyone.

So that was my train of thought on this subject. Started a week ago, and finally finished because I am not allowing myself to start new posts without finishing old ones anymore.

Yay,  progress!

On a related note: WSDOT added a camera to view construction progress on the bridge!

Image automatically refreshes every 2 minutes. Click image to view the WSDOT traffic cameras page.

They also just added two cameras to view detour routes on SR20 and George Hopper Road.

Also, whoever administers the @wsdot twitter account does a fantastic job!

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