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Originally published Friday, May 24, 2013 at 10:46 AM

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Gov. Inslee says bridge repair will cost $15M

The federal government promised on Friday to send $1 million to Washington state to fix the collapsed Skagit River bridge, but Gov. Jay Inslee said it will take about $15 million to repair that section of Interstate 5, the state's main north-south roadway.

Associated Press

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SEATTLE —

The federal government promised on Friday to send $1 million to Washington state to fix the collapsed Skagit River bridge, but Gov. Jay Inslee said it will take about $15 million to repair that section of Interstate 5, the state's main north-south roadway.

The chairwoman of the state House's Transportation Committee said lawmakers should be able to scrape together the rest of the money to quickly and safely repair the bridge.

"We don't have an extra $15 million, but we might reprioritize around this," said Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island.

The state has a contingency fund and Clibborn's committee also has been working on a tax package to pay for routine infrastructure maintenance and repairs.

Clibborn expressed concern, however, about whether it would be best to repair the bridge or rebuild it in a different, more modern way. She was unsure if federal emergency dollars would require them to put the bridge back exactly as it was before.

The state ran into a similar issue when it repaired a flood-damaged bridge in Centralia, she said.

Those worries would not delay bridge repair, Clibborn added, but would just be another issue to put on the table as state and federal officials discuss what to do.

"It is something we need to look at: What are the strings that come with this money," Clibborn said.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who represents the congressional district just south of the bridge, wasn't immediately concerned about working through those issues. He said new federal transportation laws would ease the way.

Larsen talked to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Friday morning and he promised his full support to get the roadway repaired as quickly as possible.

"This bridge is an important economic lifeline. It's not just about Skagit Valley's economy, or Washington state's economy. It's about the West Coast economy and international trade," Larsen said.

LaHood told Larsen he was sending his top engineer out to the site to help with the assessment. An interagency task force will expedite any federal permitting that needs to be done, he added.

When asked to estimate how long the repair could take, Larsen said it took 13 months to finish the eight-lane Interstate-35 West bridge over the Mississippi River in Minnesota after it collapsed in 2007.

"This is a much smaller project than that," Larsen said, but it offers a big-picture estimate. "That doesn't mean it won't take longer or shorter," he added.

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Contact Donna Blankinship at https://twitter.com/dgblankinship.

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