It was a Seattle crabpocalypse on the viaduct this week, and it came almost exactly one year after a toppled fish truck snarled traffic on the same road. This time, however, the city handled things differently, and in turn, drivers had a shorter wait.
“This is certainly a better-coordinated response than last year,” said Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, noting that different departments worked together to fix the problem.
Drivers waited nearly nine hours behind stalled viaduct traffic in March 2015 after a semi-truck tipped over and dumped salmon all over the road. On Monday — almost one year later and near the same spot — drivers waited four hours for one lane to open and seven hours for both northbound lanes to flow after a semi-truck overturned and spilled frozen crab all over the viaduct. KIRO Radio’s Sara Lerner reports the driver of the semi-truck was cited for negligent driving and received a $550 ticket.
“We have a very fragile system here and the incidents, both last year and this year, were complicated,” said Norm Mah, with the Seattle Department of Transportation. “It’s not a simple vehicle collision where you can have the vehicles move on their own or have a tow truck help out.”
A total of 30 boxes fell from the viaduct onto First Avenue in downtown Seattle as crews worked to right the truck and clean up the site. Five dump trucks worth of crab were ultimately removed from the area — three from SDOT and two from the Washington State Department of Transportation.
SDOT plans to close the right lane on the NB SR-99 Viaduct, after S. Royal Brougham Way, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday for guardrail repair.
After the 2015 incident, an outside review was conducted to analyze the city’s response. A few things have changed as a result. For starters, the priorities were reorganized.
“Previously, in many cities nationally, the thought was life, safety, property and traffic — traffic being the last,” Mah said. “That was re-examined.”
That order switched, prioritizing traffic over property. That means, after determining the truck driver is OK and the viaduct is not damaged, traffic will be allowed through.
Part of the criticism of the 2015 fish incident was that an insurance adjuster was allowed to complete work and salvage fish while drivers waited on the road. Prioritizing property ahead of traffic contributed to the nine-hour wait.
What also changed was the time it took to get tow trucks to the scene.
“Previously, the onus on getting tows to the scene was on the vehicle operators and owners,” Mah said, noting that now the city now takes the initiative to get tow trucks to the scene.
“We implemented our plan and part of that plan is getting the right equipment and staff to the location,” he said. “It was clear that we would need at least two C-class tow trucks and we made those calls.”