The bridge collapse over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon Thursday has completely shut down Interstate 5, and as the Memorial Day holiday gets under way, officials are grappling with the next step in filling the gaping hole in the main north-south thoroughfare through Skagit County.
Officials are looking for a temporary, pre-fabricated bridge to replace the 160-foot section that failed, Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday. If one is found, it could be in place in weeks. If not, it could be months before a replacement can be built.
An average of 71,000 vehicles a day use the stretch of highway on the main route between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Drivers are facing two, even three-hour delays because of bridge detours. But that headache is creating a huge boost for companies offering travelers other options.
Amtrak and BNSF are taking on more passengers. Alaska Airlines also announced a special fare of $99 each way, Seattle to Bellingham, through June 1. Some people are flying via Kenmore Air
Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kris Olsen said Friday they are working to get traffic running smoothly.
We've been working really closely with the city of Mount Vernon to re-time signals, we've had our maintenance crews out here adjusting the detours, she said. We're trying to find the right combination of what works for folks to keep traffic moving.
We're never going to get it at free flow at this point, but hopefully we can at last get it moving at a pace that's reasonable.
Olsen suggested that people traveling in the area allow for extra time.
The area is still open, you just need to plan for it, she said.
On southbound I-5 at Chuckanut (exit 231), a signed detour will take traffic west on SR 20, south on Best Road, east on Fir Island Road and back to the freeway at SR 534.
Southbound I-5 is closed at George Hopper Road. A detour will take traffic east on George Hopper, south on Riverside Drive and west on SR 528 back to the freeway.
Northbound I-5 has a signed detour directing traffic off at SR 534, then west on Fir Island Road, north on Best Road and east on SR 20 back to I-5. There will be no lanes closed at SR 534.
Northbound I-5 is closed at SR 538 and traffic is detoured east on SR 538, north on Riverside Drive, west on George Hopper Road and back to I-5.
To use SR 9 as an alternate northbound route, bypassing Mount Vernon, take Exit 221 at SR 534 east to northbound SR 9 to SR 20 westbound to I-5.
There are several ways you can keep updated on traffic through the area:
Amtrak adding one daily round trip north of Seattle
Amtrak says it plans to add one daily round trip between Seattle and Bellingham.
In a statement, Amtrak, WSDOT, Sound Transit and BNSF Railway said they're working together to add the service. It would involve a morning departure from Seattle to Bellingham with an early evening return to help those who normally drive the route. Spokesmen said more details will be released as they become available.
Amtrak says its Amtrak Cascades service provides four trips each day over the Skagit River Rail Bridge, which remains fully functional.