I-5 bridge (not that one) collapses, spin begins

I-5 bridge (not that one) collapses, spin begins

Cover of today’s Seattle Times.

In case you haven’t heard, a bridge on Interstate 5 north of Seattle collapsed and toppled into the Skagit River last night. Two cars fell into the river but amazingly no one was seriously hurt. Reports say it was caused when a large semi truck hit a steel beam truss which caused the bridge to wobble and then crack.

Almost immediately, folks wondered how this eye-popping infrastructure failure would impact the discussion around the Columbia River Crossing project. And almost immediately, the spin began from the pro-CRC side. Here’s a snip from a Portland Tribune story posted this morning:

The collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington highlights the need to invest more in transportation infrastructure, say supporters of the Columbia River Crossing project.

“We’re glad no one appears to have been seriously hurt, but it shows the need to invest in our transportation infrastructure, like the I-5 bridge over the Columbia,” says Portland Business Alliance official Megan Doern, a spokesperson for the Columbia River Crossing Coalition, which supports the project.

It seems absurd that the failure of a structurally deficient bridge would strengthen the case for the CRC. That project would spend $3.6 billion on five miles of new freeway lanes, six widened interchanges, and a massive new bridge. And it’s worth noting that — despite attempts at convincing everyone the CRC is a “bridge project” — the actual bridge replacement portion of the project represents just 30% of the entire budget.

If anything, this bridge collapse should remind us of how ridiculous it is to keep pouring billions into new highway projects while existing infrastructure gets worse and worse.

Transportation For America, a national non-profit that has advocated for more funding of deficient bridges and aging infrastructure, is already on the case and they’re expected to make a more formal statement later today.

Suffice it to say it will be interesting to see how this high-profile event is spun by both sides.

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