No not bridges between atheists. Not bridges between atheists and People of Faith. Not bridges between the Boy Scouts and faggots their friends in the gay community. No, bridges. The kind that carry cars and trucks across rivers.

Yesterday evening one such bridge carried one such truck across the Skagit River, some 90 miles north of Seattle (where I am). It was a big truck, with an oversize load, and the load whacked into one of the overhead girders – and that span of the bridge fell into the river.

Fell into it, right then, right after the truck whacked the girder. I spent an hour last night staring at the tv with my mouth open. There were two vehicles visible in the water, but no one (except perhaps the rescue people in boats, who could perhaps see to the bottom, as the river is only ten feet deep there) could be sure there weren’t more under the water. This morning though it’s reported that there were only two and that all three people involved are ok.

Well, Mount Vernon, Washington is not Minneapolis. This isn’t as big a deal as the collapse of a big urban bridge. On the other hand, the bridge is on I-5, which is the only freeway between Seattle and points south, and Vancouver, so it is a big deal.

It’s great, isn’t it? The world’s richest country and we don’t maintain our bridges.


  1. johnthedrunkard says

    We don’t need to preventive maintenance!

    The Free Market…..
    The Invisible Hand…..
    The Entrepreneural Spirit…

    Yeah, they’ll fix it. After bring toys to all the good little children

  2. Xaivius (Formerly Robpowell, Acolyte of His Majesty Lord Niel DeGrasse Tyson I) says

    In my state of all places. Good grief. We have a bad enough time with bridges here as it is. You’d think people would learn.

  3. Sercee says

    Wasn’t there a report out in the last couple years that specifically surveyed bridges across the US and flagged some ridiculously high number of them as being unsafe or even likely to fail?

    I thought at the time that it was great news because it meant there was now a plethora of projects that could be invested in, create jobs, blah blah blah…. but, as mentioned… austerity…

  4. says

    Yes, there was such a report, plus a huge uproar about it after the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis. But…meh…taxes, rich people, starve the beast, Tea Party, elections, taxes, shut up and fall into the river.

  5. says

    Well on the bright side as one by one all these corroding bridges crumble and kill people, they’ll finally be replaced with new ones. Right?

  6. Omar Puhleez says

    Is it right that there is only one public bridge when there could be 3 or more private sector ones side by side undercutting each others’ tolls?

    I understand it works that way in theory.

    (from Scranton, Pennsylvania.)

  7. says

    Wow, the exact same thing – truck whacking girder, bridge falling down – happened a few months ago near Cooperstown NY. But Cooperstown is a small town and all the other towns around are even smaller, so no big whoop, except for the people who now have a 40-minute commute instead of a 10-minute commute.

  8. A. Noyd says

    Collapsing or sinking our bridges is a Washington State tradition, though, innit?

  9. says

    @Omar #8 — love your 3-bridge example! Brilliant.

    Re Galloping Gertie — the amazing thing is how long the bridge stayed intact, and how flexible it was. Remarkable!

    In the Loma Prieta earthquake (1989, the one during the world series, that collapsed the Bay Bridge from SF to Oakland), several elevated freeways and overpasses collapsed because the horizontal parts were thrown upward and, when they came down, were pierced by the upright supports. It took me about 20 years after that one to be comfortable being stopped in traffic under an overpass, or to park in a multistory car park / parking structure.

  10. rnilsson says

    Only a few years back I read about one of the major suspension bridges over SF Bay needed acute rescue. The steel lugs that held up some part of the construction were afflicted with severe corrosion where the bolts connected to the eyes of the lugs — this tiny area was inherently inaccessible to paint or even lubricate, apparently — and the resulting friction accelerated this point damage to the point where the lugs might simply crack open and the bolts losing their lift purchase. In that case, I believe the powers that be decided to fix the bridge even at the cost of long-term traffic impediment — though certainly orders of magnitude less costly than a total failure would have been. Sorry, can’t quite remember which bridge or even the exact year.

    So, where there is a will there is a way. Some, not all, disasters are avoidable by proper maintenance. People should do all we can to actually avoid those at least.

    Oh, and the father of my best friend at school was inspired by the Tacoma catastrophe (“Gertie”) to create a whole new business in steel wire structures construction. Nice guy, made a bundle.

  11. thesandiseattle says

    Yup bridges do seem to be a thing here in WA don’t they? We used to have two bridges out of our neighborhood, then they decided the older bridge was too old. They promised the new bridge would be ready by this summer, but it doesn’t look like that’ll happen. Crossin my fingers for 2014 🙂

  12. rnilsson says

    Hi again 😉
    I just read the CBS news story, and I quote:

    At a news conference Friday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said federal officials were searching the country for a possible temporary replacement for the bridge.

    Inslee said federal officials are looking for a pre-fabricated structure to replace the 160-foot section that fell into the river. If one is found, Inslee said a temporary fix could be in place in weeks. If one can’t be quickly secured, the governor said it could be months before a replacement can be built.

    Huh. I was under the impression that the US was the biggest military power on the planet, and even my little peaceful country at least used to have military engineer units who could put up emergency bridges pretty much anywhere on short notice. Are all those US resources presently overseas? Maybe airlift them stateside? Huh?

    Or hey, here’s another thought: pontoons. From the pictures, the river banks don’t seem awfully steep. Maybe river boat traffic can wait for a few days.

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