Friday, May 31, 2013

Bridge collapse taking Washington town's economy down with it

Kirk Johnson reports in today's New York Times on the impact that last week's I-5 bridge collapse is having on the town of Burlington, Washington, population 8,388.  An excerpt from his story follows:
Interstate 5, before last week’s bridge collapse over the Skagit River on the south end of town, was the great pumping arterial source of economic life here. It brought Canadians, shopping for furniture or clothes. It brought day-tripping outlet mall lovers from Seattle. 
Thanks to its embrace of retailing beginning in the 1980s, Burlington eventually boasted the highest level of retail sales per capita among all Washington cities.  
But now the people are not coming to buy, and they are mostly not stopping. The message by the state to avoid the area to help ease congestion, and the news images of stalled traffic and twisted steel, have created a secondary collapse, business and political leaders here said, in a community that was poised this year to finally break through, back to prerecession health.
Earlier this week, Democratic governor Jay Inslee released $150,000 "to support local economies."  It is not clear how much of this will go to help Burlington.

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