Mapping Tool Developed After 2013 Skagit River Bridge Collapse

Online tool helps on Washington truck drivers plot route, avoid bridge strikes

OLYMPIA – An online tool allows truck drivers to more easily research bridge heights and potential conflicts before they hit the road is nearing its first anniversary, with plans to keep improving though 2016.

The Washington State Department of Transportation was already updating its bridge clearance information at the time of the May 2013 Skagit River Bridge collapse. The bridge collapsed when an oversize commercial truck struck and damaged the upper bridge supports causing a section of Interstate 5 and two vehicles to fall in the river. The newly collected bridge data became a springboard to develop the state route bridge vertical clearance trip planner as part of WSDOT’s overall response to the collapse.

Using GIS mapping, the trip planner shows drivers which bridges on their proposed route should be avoided or approached with caution because heights may vary by lane. While the ultimate responsibility for checking clearance levels remains with the truck driver, this tool makes it easier to fulfill that obligation when applying for trip permits.

The trip planner database will be available to third-party developers who have expressed interest in creating navigation apps. This open data approach allows the private sector to use state generated data to develop even more tools to improve highway and motorist safety.

Continuous Improvement Planned

“We’ve taken advantage of existing technology to help improve safety on our roads,” said Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. “Sharing this data through private-public partnerships will help get this information into even more customers’ hands.”

In addition to the new tool, WSDOT also has clarified its commercial vehicle policies, initiated a statewide review of all signing for low-clearance structures, added the bridge clearance list to its road restrictions webpage and added a step-by-step guide to help drivers determine what type of permit they should request. All bridges with a minimum clearance of 16-foot, 6-inches and lower also will be re-measured as part of a comprehensive statewide review scheduled for completion in late 2015.

WSDOT also will continue to expand the trip planner features, including displaying lane-by-lane height information. That work will be completed by 2017. You can use the on-line trip planner at www.wsdot.wa.gov/data/tools/bridgeclearance/

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