Feds giving $15.6 million for Skagit River Bridge repairs

WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. Patty Murray says the U.S. Department of Transportation is releasing the remaining $15.6 million of the federal share for repair of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington state that collapsed three weeks ago.

Murray, a Democrat, said Thursday Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told her in a phone call that the funds were being released. The total cost of the project is $17.8 million. The federal government previously released $1 million. The state is expected to provide the remaining money.

Victor Menendez, head of the Federal Highway Administration, said he is committed to seeing repairs to the bridge completed by Oct. 1. He said two temporary spans will be in place by June 20, although traffic over the bridges will be limited to 35 mph.

Victor Menendez, head of the Federal Highway Administration, said "innovative construction concepts" will be used to speed repairs to the I-5 bridge. One of those concepts, he said, is "design-build" in which the designer of the bridge repairs is also in charge of construction of the project. The aim is to eliminate the time required to solicit bids from contractors.

Menendez, speaking to reporters after a Senate hearing on the state of the nation's bridges and highways, expressed confidence the bridge will be repaired and reopened by Oct. 1.

"We're on track," he said. "That's hard in our mind."

A portion of the 58-year-old I-5 bridge collapsed May 23 near Mount Vernon, after a semi-truck struck critical steel supports. This section of Washington state's only north-south interstate carries an estimated 71,000 vehicles a day.

Although no one was killed or seriously injured when the bridge collapsed, Washington State Patrol Trooper Sean O'Connell was killed in detoured traffic in Conway on May 31 when his motorcycle collided with a truck.