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Originally published June 18, 2013 at 3:36 PM | Page modified June 19, 2013 at 6:14 AM

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Temporary I-5 bridge opens to traffic

The Interstate 5 Skagit River bridge, a section of which collapsed in an accident May 23, will reopen Wednesday morning.

Seattle Times transportation reporter

I-5 Skagit River Bridge Time-Lapse

Credit: Washington State Department of Transportation

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The Interstate 5 Skagit River bridge reopened Wednesday morning.

The southbound lanes opened about 4:40 a.m., followed by the northbound lanes shortly before 6 a.m.

Gov. Jay Inslee yesterday called completion of the project great news for the state of Washington.

“We showed that if we work together, we can and do indeed do hard things in short order with great results,” he said near the north river bank, after walking on the freshly asphalted deck of a temporary span.

The speed limit is 40 mph, because the lanes are only 11 feet wide, with a 1-foot right shoulder. Side railings will keep loads from banging truss work.

An estimated 71,000 vehicles a day usually cross the bridge. A 160-foot portion of the bridge collapsed and fell into the water May 23 when a semi truck’s high load hit overhead beams. Since then, drivers have detoured, losing a half-hour most days, and even longer on a weekend or a Friday afternoon rush.

The temporary span was finished for less than $2 million, said Lynn Peterson, secretary of the state Department of Transportation (DOT). And the winning bid for the permanent span was $6.9 million, she said. That’s far less than the $15.6 federal-emergency grant announced last week to rebuild the crossing.

Peterson said the permanent concrete-girder-supported span will be assembled at the riverfront, then rolled into position. The temporary bridge will be removed on barges.

Business groups hailed the rapid closure of the freeway gap. Some merchants say they have lost 15 to 80 percent of sales because customers didn’t want to lose their spot in traffic lines or maneuver around trucks, said Kristen Keltz, CEO of the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce.

“The DOT’s been incredible. I can’t imagine this being done any faster than this,” said Don Wick, executive director of the Economic Development Association of Skagit County.

Two crews of nine workers and a supervisor worked 12-hour shifts the past two weeks, assembling a military style “Bailey bridge.”

Inslee enjoyed his close-up view of the job, asking about ballast weight that held the temporary truss stable during construction. He noticed his feet warming from the asphalt that was rolled a half-hour before his arrival.

“I had a great experience, great teamwork,” ironworker Larry Forcier told the governor.

“You did a super job in short order,” Inslee told him.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @mikelindblom

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