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Bridge collapse will slow, not halt, agricultural movement

Jack Wallace, co-owner of G&D Wallace Inc./Wallace Farms in Burlington, WA, said agricultural producers in the region will deal with the effects of a bridge collapse on Interstate 5 over the Skagit River on Thursday as they would any other problem thrown their way.

“Farmers are used to dealing with obstacles. It’s going to make it more difficult,” Wallace told The Produce News the morning of May 25. “We can work around it.” The company grows and markets conventional red, white, gold and purple potatoes as well as organic red and russet potatoes in the Skagit Valley.

The bridge collapsed on May 24, sending cars and people into the river. Rescue efforts began immediately, and three people were sent to area hospitals for treatment. There were no fatalities.

Wallace said the company will begin strategic planning to ensure product can move in the most timely manner possible. “The trucks are going to have to wait in traffic,” he commented about rerouting. “But it’s not going to add hours and hours [to transit times]. We’ll be able to work around it today. And we’ll be able to work around it this fall.”

In addition to logistics considerations, Wallace said the situation will be complicated by the fact that there are restrictions placed on drivers as to how many hours they can be behind the wheel.

According to Wallace, eyewitnesses reported that a semi struck a girder at the top of the bridge, causing the collapse. “I’m surprised that one truck impact can bring a bridge down,” he stated. At a press conference early Friday morning, Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said the vehicle was oversized and overweight.

Wallace said it is important that for transportation agencies to ensure that infrastructure is safe. “If this bridge had an Achilles’ heel, that’s something that needs to be look at,” he commented. “Bridges need to be safe.”