Statesman Examiner

Many Bridges In Washington In Poor Condition

- By Brandon Hansen / For The Statesman

Of Washington’s nearly 10,000 bridges, roughly 530 are in poor condition by WSDOT inspectors. This means almost one out of every ten bridges in the state is in poor condition, including bridges near downtown or heavily traveled areas.

While a poor rating doesn’t mean a bridge is unsafe for structural­ly falling apart, it does mean the bridge gets higher up the replacemen­t list. A bridge in the poor category is eligible for replacemen­t.

If there is a severe risk of the bridge collapsing that inspectors find, WSDOT has protocols for immediatel­y shutting down bridges.

Bridge collapses across the country have garnered headlines, and now the action is starting to wind up. The federal government has issued $ 605 million to Washington to help with bridge maintenanc­e and replacemen­t as part of the bipartisan Infrastruc­ture Law.

WSDOT officials estimate it will cost $ 150 annually to catch up on the repairs of their bridges.

In 2013, the Skagit River Bridge collapsed, causing three people in two vehicles to fall into the river. They escaped injury and were rescued by boat. The bridge incident was investigat­ed heavily. The issue found was an oversized load that hit several of the bridge’s overhead support beams causing a catastroph­ic failure.

Before the incident, the bridge was evaluated as safe but functional­ly obsolete as it did not meet current design standards. It was considered “fracture critical,” meaning it did not have redundanci­es for its structural integrity if one of the bridge’s support members failed.

In 2020, the West Seattle bridge had growing cracks that caused its shutdown and emergency repairs. This cut the area off from a direct route to the rest of the city for nearly two years.

Seventeen Washington counties have five percent or more of their bridges in poor conditions.

Stevens County has 90 total bridges, and 14 are considered to be in poor condition. This means 15.56 percent of area bridges are in poor condition. That is the highest percentage out of all Washington counties except for Pend Oreille County, which has 60 bridges, of which ten are in poor condition ( 16.67 percent)

In Colville, the West Oakshot Bridge has a poor rating, while two bridges along Chewelah’s Main Street are also in poor condition.

WSDOT monitors 7,300 bridges and owns about half of those while contractin­g with 100 municipali­ties to inspect others. City or county crews may also inspect bridges.

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