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December 6, 2013 at 2:44 PM

Commuters wait as responders take 2 hours to clear viaduct crash

The C Line bus waits in general traffic to take the Fourth Avenue South loop ramp. (Mike Lindblom photo)

A C Line bus waits in traffic to take the Fourth Avenue South loop ramp. (Mike Lindblom photo)

It took more than two hours for authorities to deal with a crash on the Alaskan Way Viaduct on Friday morning, aggravating thousands of bus riders and drivers entering Seattle from points south.

The collision happened at 6:29 a.m. northbound, between the stadiums and Seneca Street, fire dispatch logs say.  Matt Leber, known as Velo Bus Driver, tweeted that he passed a crashed van soon after and saw the airbag deployed and the driver waiting for firefighters.  Afterward, a lane was blocked and the van wasn’t towed away until around 8:45 a.m.

Police officers reported that a driver hit a viaduct guardrail and the vehicle spun to face the wrong direction, but there were no injuries, said police spokesman Mark Jamieson.

Spillover congestion reached Fourth Avenue South and First Avenue South back to Georgetown, also affecting traffic on Interstate 5.  King County Metro Transit rerouted its buses a few minutes before 8 a.m., and the RapidRide C Line diverted to the Fourth Avenue South loop ramp, only to be stuck among solo drivers there.

This despite the fact that Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) deploys several Incident Response Team (IRT) trucks and says they can clear freeways in an average of 13 minutes.

The state IRTs can respond to callouts on Highway 99, but they “were fairly slammed” while responding to several other collisions and spinouts, said WSDOT spokesman Travis Phelps. While city police didn’t ask the state for help, he said, “We knew there was an incident on 99.”

A Seattle traffic officer called out a private tow truck and waited for it to move the wreck, following normal procedure, said Jamieson. Officers noticed fluid on the road deck, so cleanup could have made the response take longer, he said.

Metro spokesman Jeff Switzer told West Seattle Blog that buses weren’t rerouted immediately because at first they were able to squeeze past the accident scene. Traffic was further crimped by a crash on northbound I-5 at Mercer Street, he said. Marybeth Turner, Seattle Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said she herself was caught on a Route 122 bus from Burien for an hour, so had limited details.

Friday evening traffic is also likely to be a mess because of Christmas carolers singing in the street at Westlake Center and a Pearl Jam concert at Key Arena.

Comments | More in General news, Traffic & Transit | Topics: crash, delays, Traffic

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