Washington’s I-5 bridge collapse highlights need for infrastructure funding

Updated May 28, 2013

I-5 bridge collapse

Thursday night, a truck with an oversized load struck a portion of the I-5 bridge near Seattle, Washington, sending a section of the bridge and three drivers tumbling into the Skagit River below, according to our sister site Better Roads.

Thankfully, no one was killed in the collapse, but rescue teams are searching the river for others just to be safe. The collapse was triggered when a semi carrying a tall load hit an upper portion of the bridge.

And here’s the troubling part: Washington state’s transportation secretary Lynn Peterson  has said that the I-5 bridge, which was built in 1955, is “an older bridge that needs a lot of work.” In fact, the Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory listed the bridge as being “functionally obsolete,” which means that the bridge has an outdated design including narrow shoulders or a low clearance.

I-5 bridge collapse carMore bad news, according to the Better Roads 2012 Bridge Inventory, there are many more bridges in the same condition or worse as that of the I-5. Better Roads reports that 970, a full 30 percent, of Washington’s bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

The Obama administration has taken infrastructure needs seriously, budgeting $40 billion for a “fix-it-first” program that will update and repair bridges that need attention most like the I-5. And in the last week, the President signed a memorandum that slashes the approval and review times for infrastructure projects in order to speed up the process of such repairs.

A full investigation of the bridge is being carried out by the National Transportation Safety Board.

You can watch video of the rescue effort below.

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