Breaking News!!: Interstate 5 bridge collapsed in Mount Vernon, Washington.

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Breaking News!!: Mount Vernon, WA: Interstate 5 bridge collapsed in Mount Vernon, Washington.

**** Updated at 10:00pm PT on Saturday, May 25th, 2013: ****

Everyone has been accounted for and no reports of fatalities at this moment in a bridge collapse at around 7:00pm PT Thursday night in Mount Vernon, Washington.

During a Saturday afternoon press conference, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said that when a truck carrying an oversize load hit the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon, Washington, the concrete surface of the bridge deck and, “slid off the girders, like frosting sliding off a cake.”

According to National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman, from the visible damage, investigators have identified compression buckles, compound fractures, and bending in the bridge frame that’s in the water.

“The bending and buckling of the bridge is telling our investigators where the failure originated and how it propagated,” said National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman.

Investigators have interviewed the driver of the oversize load truck and the driver described that his first indication of anything being wrong was when he heard and felt contact with the bridge.

The driver of the oversize load truck pulled over and was told by another motorist that a portion of the bridge had fallen.

According to National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman, the driver had a permit for a load measuring 15 feet, 9 inches, and he reported measuring the height of his load multiple times along the route, but the bridge portal is higher in the middle than it is on the outside corners near the shoulders.

“The permit was for 15 feet, 9 inches. This bridge, at its lowest point, the clearance is 14 feet, 6 inches. The bridge clearance, at its lowest point, that’s on the outside of the bridge near the shoulder – and as I mentioned it’s an elliptical bridge so you have more clearance towards the middle of the bridge – those clearances, those heights, are not posted on the bridge, and so it is the responsibility of the operator, solely to determine if they can clear through all of the structures on their route,” said National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman.

According to National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman, Washington does not require vertical clearance to be posted unless the clearance is 14 feet, 4 inches or less.

Officials and investigators are planning to interview the driver of the pilot car who was reportedly with the oversize load truck during the drive across the bridge.

According to the Washington Governor’s Office late Thursday, 3 people were rescued and there is no fourth person missing in the water.

The Washington Department of Transportation is reporting that a semi truck with an oversized load crossing the bridge and striking the beams on the north end before the bridge collapsed.

The Washington State Patrol is reporting that the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon, Washington has collapsed dumping vehicles and people into the water.

National Transportation Safety Board is gathering information regarding the bridge collapse.

Witnesses near by and driving on the bridge heard the bridge just collapsed.

Anybody who may have witnesses the bridge collapse should please call Washington State Patrol Dispatch at: 1 (360) 654-1204.

The bridge collapse has halted traffic in both direction on Interstate 5 which is very heavy traveled route for trucks and on average, at least 71,000 vehicles a day use the stretch of highway on the main route between Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada.

Southbound Interstate 5 traffic was backed up as far as the Canadian Border at Blaine, Washington after Thursday’s bridge collapse and detours have be set for the public can get around the closures for the busy Memorial Day holiday.
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**** Traffic Alert!!: Mount Vernon, WA: Detours Around Interstate 5 Bridge Collapsed: ****

– Southbound Interstate 5 at Chuckanut Drive (exit 231), a signed detour will take traffic west on Washington State Route 20, south on Best Road, east on Fir Island Road and back to the freeway at Washington State Route 534.

– Southbound Interstate 5 is closed at George Hopper Road. A detour will take traffic east on George Hopper, south on Riverside Drive and west on Washington State Route 528 back to Interstate 5.

– Northbound Interstate 5 has a signed detour directing traffic off at Washington State Route 534, then west on Fir Island Road, north on Best Road and east on Washington State Route 20 back to Interstate 5. There will be no lanes closed at Washington State Route 534.

– Northbound I-5 is closed at Washington State Route 538 and traffic is detoured east on Washington State Route 538, north on Riverside Drive, west on George Hopper Road and back to Interstate 5.

– To use Washington State Route 9 as an alternate northbound route, bypassing Mount Vernon, take Exit 221 at Washington State Route 534 east to northbound Washington State Route 9 to Washington State Route 20 westbound to Interstate 5.

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This bridge has been recently inspected and there is some reports that the bridge was deemed functionally obsolete.

The bridge was built in 1955 and according to federal records, the bridge has a sufficiency rating of 57.4 out of 100 which is reportedly well below the statewide average rating of 80. At least 759 bridges in the state of Washington have a lower sufficiency score.

According to a 2012 Skagit County Public Works Department, 42 of the United States’ 108 bridges are 50 years or older, 8 bridges are more than 70 years old, and 2 are over 80 years old.

The State of Washington was given a C grading in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 infrastructure report card and a C- when it came to the Washington’s bridges.

More than a quarter of Washington’s 7,840 bridges are considered structurally deficient of functionally obsolete.

Stay tuned to ZachNews for news updates with more information regarding this news story.

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