Washington state bill would tighten oversize permitting

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, June 03, 2013

In response to the collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington, one state lawmaker has introduced a bill that is intended to prevent similar occurrences.

On May 23, an oversize truck struck the bridge’s overhead crossbeams, causing a span to fall into the river. The incident has spurred renewed interest at the statehouse in passing a nearly $9 billion tax package, which includes a 10-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase to pay for roads, bridges and transit work.

Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, unveiled a bill that would forbid the Washington State Department of Transportation to issue travel permits for loads that are higher or wider than the minimum clearance on the route.

Baumgartner said that proper oversight is needed rather than more money.

“This bridge collapse had nothing to do with gas taxes. It’s just common sense that DOT shouldn’t be issuing permits for trucks that are bigger than the bridges that they cross,” Baumgartner said in a news release.

Also included in the bill is a requirement for warning signs on bridges and overpasses with less than 16 feet of clearance.

Baumgartner noted that the Skagit River crossing, which had a 15 foot, 6 inch clearance, had been struck multiple times through the years “and yet DOT failed to properly post warning signs.”

Discussion on transportation funding has been ongoing at the statehouse for most of the year. A special session to continue negotiations opened on May 13 and could stretch to mid-June.

As debate continues, Gov. Jay Inslee has said that he will work to get the Legislature to provide the resources necessary to address road and bridge funding needs.

The bill – SB5944 – awaits consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Washington, click here.

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