Three people were rescued from icy water after a section of the Interstate 5 bridge collapsed Thursday evening 60 miles north of Seattle, raising the prospect of a renewed debate over funding critical infrastructure repairs across the country.
A semitruck with an oversize load that hit the upper span of the bridge caused the collapse, Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said during an overnight news conference. The truck made it off the bridge, and the driver remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators.
The local Skagit County Sheriff’s Department said two men and one woman were rescued from the water and transported to area hospitals, where they were all reported in stable condition, according to King 5 News in Seattle. State authorities say there were no fatalities.
“You talk miracles,” said Dan Sligh, one of the survivors, in an interview with the Seattle Times. “I don’t know what you want to call it. When you’re sitting down in the water and all that mangled metal of the bridge. You look around and you pinch yourself.”
The bridge, built in 1955, was inspected twice last year and repairs were made, according to state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. The latest inspection was in November.
Transportation officials are working on plans for either a temporary or permanent replacement.
The bridge was not classified as structurally deficient, but a Federal Highway Administration database listed it as being "functionally obsolete" – a category meaning that the design is outdated, such as having narrow shoulders and low clearance underneath.
President Obama’s budget proposal for 2014 calls for $21 billion to fund improvements and construction of new infrastructure. In March, he told a Miami audience: "We've still got too many roads that are in disrepair, too many bridges that aren't safe" and urged Congress to fund his proposal.
In 2009, $28 billion for bridge and highway repair were included in the $787 billion federal stimulus measure passed by Congress.