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Originally published September 23, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 23, 2007 at 2:11 AM

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Inspectors checking Ship Canal Bridge on I-5

Over the next month, Seattle's 45-year-old Ship Canal Bridge on Interstate 5 will get a close look from engineers with the Washington State...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Over the next month, Seattle's 45-year-old Ship Canal Bridge on Interstate 5 will get a close look from engineers with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Federal law requires that the steel-truss bridge be inspected every two years. Saturday, crews began their inspection, paying special attention to any rust, loose bolts and cracks in the concrete, none of which were found after about six hours, said Jody Bywater, a DOT engineer.

The Ship Canal Bridge shares structural similarities with the Minnesota bridge that collapsed last month into the Mississippi River, causing 13 deaths and more than 100 injuries. The DOT has since fielded many questions from people concerned about the safety of Washington's bridges, said Jugesh Kapur, another DOT engineer.

"We tell the public that we do a good job with our bridges, and we never let our bridges get to the point where they're unsafe to travel," Kapur said.

About 260,000 vehicles pass daily over the bridge linking Capitol Hill and the University District, making it Washington state's most heavily traveled bridge.

Eight-tenths of a mile long and 14 stories high, it was the largest bridge in the Northwest when it opened in 1962. It has eight lanes on the upper deck and four on the lower.

Additional inspections are scheduled Oct. 1-4, Oct. 6-7 and Oct. 20, causing partial lane closures. A report will be released sometime in November, Kapur said.

The most recent assessment of state-owned bridges, including the I-5 span, found that 94 percent, or 44 million square feet, of the total deck area on all the spans is in good or fair condition, DOT spokeswoman Melanie Coon said.

The remaining 6 percent, or 2.6 million square feet, is in poor condition. Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct and the I-5 northbound viaduct between Spokane Street and Interstate 90 account for nearly half of the problems, Coon said.

She noted that the I-5 northbound viaduct was repaired in August and is expected to have its condition upgraded when the next assessment is done in summer 2008.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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