Journal of the San Juan Islands


Bridge fix pushed back one week; state trooper killed in collision near Conway detour route

June 7, 2013 · 7:24 PM

A computer-generated image illustrates the span that will serve as a temporary replacement for the section of the I-5 Skagit River bridge that collapsed May 30. / Contributed photo/WSDOT

The aftermath of the Skagit River bridge collapse claimed its first death on Friday, May 31, on the detour route in Conway.

Sean O'Connell, a 38-year-old Washington State Patrol motorcycle trooper, was killed that afternoon when his motorcycle was hit by a truck near the intersection of Fir Island Road and Main Street in Conway.

In another development, Jay Drye of the Washington Department of Transportation told the Journal June 7 that the expected completion date for installation of the temporary bridge was being pushed back a week or more beyond the previous mid-June estimate.

"Unexpected modifications that need to be made to supporting structures set us back a week," Drye said, adding that crews are working around the clock" and that additional steelworkers and laborers were being "added daily."

In San Juan County, the Skagit River bridge collapse resulted in minimal disruption of tourist travel to the San Juan Islands, according to Deborah Hopkins-Buchanan of San Juan Islands Visitor's Bureau and Victoria Compton of the Economic Development Council, both of whom updated the County Council about the latest visitor numbers at its June 4 meeting.

Councilman Rick Hughes noted Washington State Ferries had a 5-percent increase in ferry traffic to the San Juan Islands on Friday and Saturday, May 24 and 25, compared with the 2012 holiday weekend.

Hughes also said that about 91 percent of the bridge replacement costs would be paid by the federal government. Washington Governor Jay Inslee's office has released about $150,000 in emergency response funds to four area counties, including San Juan County, to mitigate economic dislocations caused by the bridge collapse.

Hughes credits a quick and coordinated response by the Visitor's Bureau, the EDC and hotels and inns to provide alternate routes and to assure visitors that ferry runs were unaffected by the closure of I-5 in Mount Vernon. With as many as five alternate routes in each direction, reports of orderly traffic flows were the norm, although the state patrol and the Department of Transportation reported backups on Burlington Boulevard and Riverside Drive and some other roads east of I-5 in Mount Vernon and Burlington.

Hopkins-Buchanan and Max Brown of Sen. Patty Murray's office are coordinating a meeting scheduled for June 11 in Friday Harbor to discuss local problems caused by the bridge collapse.

Ten local officials and 10 business leaders in Friday Harbor are meeting separately with state and federal legislators and staff members for an hour each. At least one similar meeting was held in Burlington on Thursday, June 6. The meetings are closed to the public and to the press "to encourage a frank exchange of views," Hopkins-Buchanan said.


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