I-5 bridge collapse a big problem for truckers

May 25, 2013 at 3:39 PM
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BURLINGTON, Wash., May 25 (UPI) -- The collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington state is causing traffic problems that are only expected to get worse, officials say.

A section of the bridge in Burlington, Wash., collapsed Thursday after it was hit by a truck. Mike Allende, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, told The Seattle Times drivers reported delays of an hour or more on alternate routes.

"It's going to be slow going out there. ... We're advising people to stay home if they can, or leave as early as possible," Allende said.

About 70,000 vehicles use the bridge every day. Interstate 5 is the major traffic artery on the West Coast, running from the Mexican border in California to the Canadian border in Blaine, Wash.

No one was killed when the bridge collapsed, although two cars were pitched into the river. Rebuilding the bridge will take months, but officials are considering installing a temporary span.

Don Alper, director of the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University, told The Bellingham (Wash.) Herald about 600,000 truck trips are made from Canada every year to the United States, and 500,000 in the opposite direction via I-5. About 70 percent of the Canadian trucks make deliveries south of the bridge, heading to Seattle, Portland and other West Coast cities.

Alper said Canadian truckers may switch to routes east of the Cascades. Some shipping destined for Canada could be rerouted to Vancouver from Seattle.

Lex Ludtke, who heads Ludtke Pacific Trucking in Bellingham, said rerouting trucks takes time -- and that costs money.

"It's such a crucial road for commerce, so they will have to find a way to keep it open," he said.

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