Inslee hopes bridge collapse opens eyes of lawmakers in Olympia

BURLINGTON -- Gov. Jay Inslee announced plans to fix the old Skagit River Bridge in just three weeks and totally replace the bridge by November.

It took only seconds to destroy a chunk of the Skagit River Bridge. A semi colliding with several beams sent one entire section crumbling down.

On Sunday, Governor Inslee announced an ambitious plan to restore I-5 in Skagit County.

"Our department of transportation has developed a plan that we believe has a very good chance of restoring traffic across the river on the I-5 corridor within weeks,” Inslee said.

Authorities hope to have it in place and traffic flowing again by mid-June, but it's only a band aid. A new bridge will be constructed next to the old one and replace it by September.

"We're going to get this project done as fast as humanly possible,” Inslee said. “There's no more important issue to the economy, to the state of Washington frankly, than getting the bridge up and running.”

Most of the tab will be picked up by the federal government, but the first step in the process is cleanup and that has drawn dozens of sightseers.

Steve Bounds has lived in Burlington all his life. He knows the importance of the bridge and is hopeful for the fix.

"I think it's awesome,” Bounds said. “I thought it would be three months minimum.”

While this bridge gets a major makeover, the governor did not deny the state has a number of deficient and functionally obsolete bridges throughout Washington.

Inslee said, "One way or another we have some work to do investing in our infrastructure, both for safety and for economic growth. I hope we can get that done this year.”

Inslee hopes this incident opens eyes and loosens purse strings in Olympia.

"We were lucky not to have loss of life here,” Inslee said.  “We don't know if we'll be lucky next time. So, we need to get together and have a bipartisan solution and I hope we'll do that this year."