Just after 7 p.m. Thursday I got a text from my daughter; “What do you know about the Skagit River bridge collapse?” Whoah! Flipping on the TV my worst commuter fears were confirmed. My thoughts immediately turned to friends and co-workers who routinely travel this section of the freeway just 25 miles south of us. Quick phone calls and texts assured me everyone was fine. But, like me they wondered aloud about how bad the traffic congestion is going to be over the next several months. No doubt about it, IT’S GONNA BE A BITCH! It is less than 24 hours after the collapse and I’m seeing lots of local folks posting that it is taking them about an hour longer to get through the detours. Granted, it is the start of the Memorial Day weekend, but I’m betting it is going to stay this way for quite a while.
The safety manager who reports to me lives on the other side of the bridge, which will effectively add a least an hour to her daily commute. I’m thinking of having her stay down south and oversee safety operations at our Anacortes facilities and “telecommute” with me on a regular basis. I’m sure company management teams at hundreds, if not thousands, of other companies are having similar conversations.
A couple of observations about this incident; The fact that a single over-sized load could disrupt the major international transportation corridor should make everyone not only angry, but also concerned about our vulnerability to respond and recover from a major disaster, like a large earthquake. When (not if) the big one hits, many if not all of the existing bridges would likely sustain major damage and collapse. Any still standing would be closed until deemed safe. Think about that… My region would literally be cut off from the rest of the state for a prolonged period of time. The most accessible metropolitan area may likely be Vancouver, BC , and they may be in the same or worse shape as us.
I’m more than worried about the condition of our state and interstate highway system, and the political partisan rhetoric about fixing it. Republicans espousing we need to better prioritize projects given the limited funds, and Democrats calling for billions of additional spending on our roads (including alternative transportation projects like bike lanes, roundabouts, etc..). I predict the heat will be turned up on our local, state and federal elected officials as the gridlock and impact on international commerce drags on over the next few months.