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Why Tuesday was ‘the worst commute of 2019’

It started with a semi-truck crash in Tacoma, and the crashes kept coming over the Tuesday morning commute around Puget Sound. Traffic became so bad that KIRO Radio Traffic Reporter Chris Sullivan is already calling it “the worst commute of 2019.”

“It was one of those days when a lot of our primary commuter routes were backed up 4-6 miles and there was nowhere to go,” he said. “If you made it through this morning, you deserve a tall cold one.”

Eighth semi-truck crash in six months

If news of a semi-truck crashing into a jersey barrier while traveling on I-5 through Tacoma sounds familiar, that’s because Tuesday morning’s incident is the eighth such crash in six months.

The driver of the truck lost control on the wet roadway around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday. The semi then jackknifed and crashed into a jersey barrier in the center of I-5. Emergency crews have responded and are cleaning up nearly 50 gallons of fuel that spilled onto the road.

“The driver stated that he lost control on the wet roadway, we actually have a witness stating that he was traveling at a high rate of speed prior to the collision … the driver is being cited for negligent driving,” said State Trooper Johnna Batiste.

Batiste said that the speed advisory through the surrounding construction area is 50 mph, but the speed limit is 60 mph. Trooper Batiste notes that this is the eighth semi-truck crash within the past six months, in the same area of I-5 through Tacoma.

“We need people to slow down,” Batiste said. “Every one of these collisions that we’ve investigated so far have been the result of the driver traveling too fast in the area.”

“DOT has stated that the lanes in this particular spot are narrower than they are just a mile down the roadway,” she said.

Worst commute of 2019

The semi truck crash shut down both directions of I-5 at SR16 for more than four hours. They were reopened by 8 a.m. Drivers used collector-distributor lanes at 38th Street to get around the scene, which caused significant slowing. Sullivan reported a five mile backup remained in the southbound direction following the incident.

“We had so many major accidents, that had multiple lanes closed in every area of our primary commute,” Sullivan said. “All lanes of I-5 in Tacoma were blocked for the semi crash. That created huge backups on I-5. Also, it created huge backups on 512 and 167 as people bailed from I-5. The valley freeway was totally messed up.”

“About that time, westbound 522 in Woodinville had a major car fire that closed all lanes,” he continued. “That backed up all the way to Monroe, about five miles. The ripple effect of that was that southbound Highway 9 was backed up four miles. That screwed up all the surface streets through Woodinville and Bothell.”

Then there was a crash on southbound I-5 north of Seattle, near Mountlake Terrace. It was right in the middle of the primary southbound route. That caused a seven mile backup.

Then there was a crash on southbound I-405 that knocked out both express toll lanes just south of the 520 bridge in Bellevue. That created a 40-minute delay coming out of Bothell. Highway 520 then backed up all the way to Redmond.

Then, just as the morning commute was winding down around 9 a.m., there was a major motorcycle crash in the eastbound lanes of the West Seattle Bridge. That snarled traffic trying to get to I-5.

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