It would be difficult to find a worse place for a truck carrying a flammable substance to crash than the spot where one overturned in Seattle on Monday.
A truck hauling propane rolled on the southbound I-5 collector-distributor lanes south of Dearborn at approximately 10 a.m. Because the contents of the truck’s cargo were flammable, it forced the state patrol to close much more than just those few lanes.
The state patrol shut down the freeway entirely between I-90 and the West Seattle Bridge for about eight hours. The state also closed off I-90 at the SoDo stadium. Ramps above and surface streets below were also closed.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a worse spot for a truck carrying flammable liquid to flip than yesterday,” KIRO Radio’s Chris Sullivan explained.
Those lucky enough to exit the freeway before it was too late to do so found themselves stuck in gridlock through Seattle. Many were forced to sit and wait it out.
“If you were on the freeway you were stuck. If you had a choice, there were very few,” Sullivan said.
Commute times through the city skyrocketed as drivers struggled to move along the surface streets. The following photo shows the true bumper-to-bumper traffic people experienced Monday afternoon and evening.
Crews began opening northbound and southbound lanes of I-5 around 6 p.m. The crash site in the collector-distributor lanes was cleared about an hour later.
There were multiple reasons it took so long to clear the crash. For starters, three people suffered non-life-threatening injuries. On top of that, the Seattle Fire Department’s HAZMAT team had to investigate the scene. Then, propane was transferred to a second tanker truck.
Two Class – C tow trucks working alongside Seattle FD to slowly lift the tanker onto it’s wheels. We are getting closer to opening I-5 pic.twitter.com/ep9cJERafA
— Trooper Rick Johnson (@wspd2pio) February 28, 2017
Somehow, Monday’s crash took less time to clear than the crash involving fish truck in 2015 that blocked Highway 99 for nine hours.
But, as Sullivan points out, the incident on Monday is just another example of how Seattle is one crash away from total gridlock.