Panel OKs name change honoring fallen trooper

The state Transportation Commission on Tuesday approved changing the name of the Skagit River Bridge to the Trooper Sean M. O’Connell Jr. Memorial Bridge.

The commission approved the request of 40th Legislative District legislators Sen. Kevin Ranker and Reps. Jeff Morris and Kristine Lytton to rename the bridge, which carries traffic over the Skagit River on Interstate 5.

A portion of the bridge collapsed in May, and Trooper O’Connell, 38, was killed in a traffic accident while directing traffic through detours set up as a result of the collapse.

The Marysville-area man was a 16-year veteran of the State Patrol.

Ranker said Tuesday that he and the other legislators had heard of O’Connell’s honorable service.

“He was as good as it gets as far as the sort of person you want serving your community,” Ranker said. “He was absolutely a genuine, kind individual.”

Ranker said he thinks the idea came from a constituent, and from there the legislators approached the State Patrol to see if O’Connell’s family would favor the idea.

“The Transportation Commission does not take these things lightly,” Ranker said.

Part of the process for renaming the structure included testimony from those in favor of the name change.

Ranker testified along with Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau and a State Patrol captain.

In addition to the letter sent from the 40th District contingent, the Transportation Commission also received letters of support to honor Trooper O’Connell from Boudreau, Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton, co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee Sen. Tracey Eide, State Patrol Chief John Batiste, state Department of Transportation Regional Administrator Lorena Eng and the Skagit County Commissioners.