Bridge over Lewis River 1 of 156 in WA deemed 'structurally deficient'

PORTLAND, Ore. - Hundreds of bridges across Oregon and Washington need to be replaced.

And Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said there are hundreds of bridges that are much higher on the priority list for replacement than the bridge that collapsed over the Skagit River on Thursday. They are some of them most heavily traveled.

One of those bridges has carried traffic over the East Fork of the Lewis River between La Center and Woodland for the last 77 years.

When it was built, Interstate 5 didn't exist. And all these years later it's on the list of bridges deemed "structurally deficient."

Doug Ficco of the Washington Department of Transportation, whose job it is to supervise the maintenance of bridges in southwest Washington, said being tagged "structurally deficient" does not necessarily mean it is unsafe.

"In this case, no," he said, referring to the bridge over the East Fork. "What it means, we only carry certain load rating on this bridge."

Oversized loads have to detour around. Plans to replace the bridge are just beginning. The cost is likely somewhere over $50 million.

That's just a fraction of the cost to replace the Interstate bridge over the Columbia River. That bridge is rated "functionally obsolete." The one that collapsed was also rated "functionally obsolete."

While that does sound bad, according to ODOT, the bridge is safe. What it does mean is that it was built to outdated construction standards.

The I-5 bridge is roughly the same kind of design as the bridge that collapsed - called a "through truss" bridge because you drive through the steel structure.

There is only one other "through truss" bridge on an interstate highway in Oregon. There are quite a few in Washington like the one over the Lewis River. They were built decades ago and a blow to just one of the support beams can be catastrophic.

"With the superstructures on this type of bridge there's no design factor included for being struck by vehicles or their loads," said ODOT spokesman Patrick Cooney.

There are 156 bridges in Washington that are structurally deficient. There are 89 bridges in Oregon.

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