Inspections: Skagit River bridge hit a number of times by big trucks

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. -- Inspection reports of the Skagit River bridge that collapsed Thursday night show this is far from the first time it's been hit by a big truck.

Internal reports indicate the bridge has a history of what's called "high load hits" to its steel super-structure. Investigators say the history and surveillance video of the crash will all be part of the investigation.

"We do take hits on almost every single one of our bridges and make repairs as needed," WSDOT secretary Lynn Peterson said during a Friday afternoon press conference.

In fact, just last November a hard hit from a truck spurred an emergency inspection and another report noted damage and repairs to three sections on the south end of the bridge -- not the end which collapsed.

But the report also makes note of a list of eight sections where steel is bent or dented because of a hard hit caused by a load that's too high for the bridge. That includes a section over the southbound right lane -- right where the truck allegedly hit.

"This is just bad luck of where it hit and how it hit," Peterson said.

The bridge is considered structurally obsolete, meaning the span built in 1955 does not meet current specifications like wider shoulders and higher superstructure.

Which raises another question: With a WSDOT listed clearance of just over 14 feet, why was no height limit posted on the bridge? Our source says anything under 15 feet, 3 inches must be posted as a warning to drivers, but that's contrary to information from Secretary Peterson.

"There are certain heights of bridges where we do not need to sign and this would have been one of those bridges," she said.

According to the National Bridge Inspection Standards, the Skagit Bridge is considered a "fractured critical" bridge meaning if one of the steel beams should fail, there are not other multiple beams that can carry the load.