A damaged bridge over Interstate 5 in Chehalis will come down tonight, dividing two major shopping areas from each other, potentially for weeks or months.

A south-bound oversized load struck the Chamber Way bridge span last Friday and state Department of Transportation engineers determined that portion of the structure must be removed.

All freeway lanes both directions will be detoured through off- and on-exits for some hours tonight, while crews attack the damaged bridge section. While it does not pose a threat as is, another oversized load striking the span could bring it down.

“The safety of the traveling public is our highest priority,” said WSDOT Southwest Regional Administrator Kris Strickler. “We’re taking immediate action to remove the damaged span so we can keep traffic moving on I-5.”

Transportation staff members are looking at several potential short-term and long-term solutions to reestablish access across the freeway via Chamber Way. In the meantime, the city of Chehalis and WSDOT are working together on an alternate east-west route.