UPDATE: 1:20 p.m. | All lanes of southbound Interstate 5 are open. The last lane through the crash scene reopened about 12:15 p.m., WSDOT spokesman Mike Allende said.
UPDATE 11 A.M. | Just a single lane of southbound Interstate 5 remains closed through the crash scene; WSDOT said the backup approaching the area is down to a mile. It’s hoped the final lane will be reopened about 2 p.m. WSDOT spokesman Mike Allende said the overall length of the closure has been due to several factors, including:
- The State Patrol investigation of the crash itself.
- The need to deal with both a fire and fuel spill at the scene.
- The need to examine damaged highway barriers.
- Getting heavy-duty tow equipment to the scene to remove the badly damaged truck cab and the two trailers.
UPDATE 10:45 a.m.| If you have packages in the FedEx pipeline, you needn’t worry about them being damaged in this morning’s wreck. WSP Trooper Julie Judson said both FedEx trailers were empty. Judson said early indications are that the rig jackknifed when the driver hit his brakes when getting back on wet pavement after coming out from underneath the Convention Center.
UPDATE 10:15 a.m.| WSDOT reports a new accident on the Interstate 5 express lanes near Mercer has closed three southbound lanes for a brief time, backing up traffic for three miles, but all lanes were reopened by 10:15 a.m.
UPDATE 9 A.M.| Two southbound lanes have been reopened through the Interstate 5 crash scene in downtown Seattle. One HOV lane and one regular lane are now open.
UPDATE 8 a.m. | All regular southbound lanes of Interstate 5 in downtown Seattle were closed this morning – and it may be 11 a.m. or later before all lanes reopen — after a tractor trailer jackknifed and burned south of the Convention Center.
At 8:30 a.m. Transportation Department officials said they hoped to reopen one lane of the four lanes through the crash scene soon. But it would take several more hours before all southbound lanes reopen, said WSDOT spokesman Mike Allende.
The accident, in which no one was seriously hurt, occurred about 4:40 a.m. and by 7 a.m., southbound traffic was backed up as far as Lake City Way, with the backup growing rapidly during the morning commute.
The closure was caused when a double-trailer FedEx truck jackknifed on wet pavement, hit an abutment and caught fire with one section tipping partway over, the Washington State Patrol reported. Heavy tow trucks were being brought in to move it.
The driver was shaken but not seriously hurt, according to the Associated Press.
Southbound traffic was being rerouted off the freeway at James Street, and reconnecting to the freeway on collector-distributor lanes south of the crash scene.
Allende said even after the truck is removed, full traffic through the area won’t resume right away because several sections of barrier have been damaged and fuel spilled onto the highway has to be cleaned up.
The I-5 express lanes were taking much of the spillover from the main freeway, but two accidents on the express lanes near downtown before 7 a.m. also slowed traffic there, starting in the University District.
Southbound Highway 99 was also rapidly becoming congested. And other surface streets were crowded as motorists sought a way around the backup. Even on southbound bus routes that don’t take the freeway, the time of the morning commute doubled for some riders.
“Basically, all of the alternate routes are jammed at this point,” Allende said. “We’re telling people to delay your trip if possible.”
The I-5 southbound lanes through downtown Seattle normally carry about 110,000 vehicles a day — 7,000 of that during the morning commute, Allende said.
The section of the highway where the accident occurred has been called by some the state’s worst bottleneck.