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Bridge Collapse in Washington State Prompts Other Possible Investigations

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The collapse of the Skagit River Bridge in Washington State is prompting a frenzy from lawmakers that all steel bridges should be investigated for the potential for a similar incident. The bridge collapsed Thursday evening after a trucker was hauling a load of equipment when his load hit the steel framework over the bridge. He looked into his rearview mirror and watched as the span of the bridge collapsed behind him, tossing other vehicles into the waters below.

Although the truckers load hit the steel frame of the bridge and ultimately led to its collapse, other overheight trucks also hit the bridge that day. Experts say that the Skagit River Bridge is a "fracture critical" bridge because if a single, vital component is hit, the entire bridge can collapse. However, officials say they are working hard to investigate whether the collapse was a fluke or a sign of bigger problems that could also affect other similar bridges across the country.

About 71,000 motorists use the Skagit River Bridge every day. It will cost an estimated $15 million to fix the bridge and the federal government has promised $1 million in emergency dollars to help. State officials apparently approved Mullen Trucking Company in Alberta to carry the load that ultimately caused the collapse of the bridge, which was 15 feet 9 inches. However, the southbound vertical clearance is only 14 feet, 5 inches but are outside of the bridge's travel lanes. The National Transportation and Safety Board says that it will begin its investigation as debris are pulled from the river.