City of Seattle admits it wasn’t ready for major traffic jam, developing new policies

Apr 13, 2015, 6:31 AM | Updated: 2:36 pm
The City of Seattle admitted it had no response plans ready to handle the overturned semi-truck tha...
The City of Seattle admitted it had no response plans ready to handle the overturned semi-truck that jammed traffic for about nine hours in March. (SDOT)

The City of Seattle admitted it had no response plans ready to handle the overturned semi-truck that jammed traffic for about nine hours in March.

City administration said there are no protocols for how to handle a major road closure, like that caused by a tipped truck on the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

“We really need to develop policies, procedures and have protocols that are in place; clearly communicated to folks throughout the organizations on how we handle this type of situation and other types of situations,” said Seattle City Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly.

Related: Seattle transportation director says SR 99 crash was handled well

The city hired a consultant to create policies to prevent something like the Alaskan Way crash from happening again.

“Now we’re going to work with a consultant to get those protocols in place to get our people the training they need to respond to complicated incidents like this,” Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said.

While those policies are being written, first responders have been given more discretion on moving damaged cars out of the way to ensure the roads stay open. They won’t have to wait for city-contracted towing companies to get there.

The department of transportation and Seattle Police Department released a report on Friday that reviews the city’s response to the semi-truck crash on March 24. The report identifies problems and recommends solutions. The report recommends the city review coordinated response protocols between departments. Other recommendations include finding resources that could help support incident response.

City of Seattle retooling response protocol after Hwy 99 semi-truck crash

Another revelation from the city’s report is where priorities are placed. Priorities include life safety, protecting property and getting drivers out of gridlock. Kubly said alleviating gridlock may be placed as a higher priority than property.

The city needs to get engineers involved in emergency response, O’Toole said. Engineers could help reduce potential damages of cleaning up a site and getting the roads opened faster.

And despite the complete shut-down of downtown Seattle because of one truck, O’Toole said the situation helped shine a light on a significant problem that hadn’t been addressed.

“It was an opportunity to take a look at our systematic weaknesses and to develop strategies to address them head on.”

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City of Seattle admits it wasn’t ready for major traffic jam, developing new policies