(SDOT screengrab from Tuesday, tweeted about 20 minutes after the crash)
Questions remain regarding Tuesday’s 5-hour closure of 4 miles of the southbound Alaskan Way Viaduct/Highway 99 while Seattle Police investigated a head-on crash south of the West Seattle Bridge. Our first followup on Wednesday on some early answers – such as, that SPD is solely responsible for making road-closure decisions in cases like this, and believed this was the safest, fastest way to keep traffic away from the crash scene. Also in that first followup, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, the West Seattleite who chairs the council’s Transportation Committee, told us he would be following up. He has just sent this to acting SDOT Director Goran Sparrman and acting SPD Chief Harry Bailey. Following the letter, you’ll also see the results of our latest inquiry with SPD. First, Rasmussen’s letter:
Many questions have been raised regarding Tuesday’s decision by the Seattle Police Department (SPD) to close all southbound lanes and access to the Highway 99 Viaduct, from the northern end of the Battery Street Tunnel to the West Seattle Bridge. The closure was to investigate a car accident that occurred in the southbound lane at the intersection of East Marginal Way and S. Nevada Street at approximately 1:45 p.m. South of the Spokane Street Viaduct. The entire route was closed until about 7:00 PM.
I understand the importance of creating a safe site and undisturbed conditions to allow officers to conduct a thorough investigation of the automobile crash. However, there are lingering questions as to why this length of SR-99 remained close for so many hours when the accident occurred south of Spokane Street and there are exits from SR-99 at the West Seattle Bridge and at Atlantic Street.
Please provide the following information:
· Please tell us or forward to us the current protocol and procedures or multi-jurisdictional emergency plans that exists between SPD and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and any other entity such as the Washington Department of Transportation (WDSOT) or Metro for emergency incidents on SR-99.
· What contingency plans exist for closure of the Viaduct including detour routes when a closure is required or when there is an emergency on various points of SR-99 including the Viaduct?
· Who at SPD ordered the closure of SR-99? Who subsequently reviewed and concurred with the order to close the Viaduct?
· How often during the incident was the closure evaluated to determine if the entire length needed to remain closed? Who conducted that review and concurred with the continued closure?
· When was the closure decision shared with SDOT, METRO and other transportation agencies? What was there response?
· When was the Mayor informed of the closure? Who informed the Mayor?
· Please summarize and provide a timeline regarding communications between SDOT, METRO, WSDOT and SPD regarding incident and the closure of the Viaduct. Please identify the individuals who were communicating with each other regarding the closure.
· Why did the closure from Battery Street continue until approximately 7:00 PM?
· What consideration was given to allowing the use of the Viaduct up to the following exits:
o Atlantic Street for people choosing to exit near the stadiums
o The West Seattle Bridge – allowing people to go to West Seattle or to use the following alternative detour routes out of Seattle:
§ West Marginal Way SW
§ Delridge Way SW
§ 35th Ave SW
If it was decided that those exits would not be allowed to be opened please explain the reasoning.
This is the most recent of a number of incidents when the Viaduct had to be closed completely or in-part. Closure affects traffic throughout Seattle not just those who would use the viaduct. Closure nearly shuts down the City.
I am concerned that there does not appear to be a coordinated plan that allows an appropriate response to an emergency that also minimizes the significant disruption of transportation in the Seattle for many hours.
I look forward to receiving your response.
Chair, Transportation Committee
Seattle City Council
Shortly before receiving this, we had contacted SPD in hopes of getting more followup details about Tuesday’s crash. Officer Patrick Michaud in media relations replied that it is a criminal investigation but that they can’t release any new information:
While this remains an active investigation, I can tell you a few things. Having been through most of the Traffic collision classes offered by the state, these things take a long time to be finalized. The amount of math that is involved with a collision of this magnitude is mindboggling when it is finally laid out to see. Then there is the recreation of the scene in a computer, and even with the assistance of some fancy equipment, it still isn’t a quick process. Then there is the measuring of damage to the vehicles.
As you can see with just these three things there is a lot of work to do then you add into the mix that we have three injured people. Then we have to work with the hospitals to get all of the final information on extent of injuries which can take an extended period of time. We have all had that time when we sat in a waiting room waiting to be seen by a doctor, well, this is no different. They will triage the most important things (people) and the paperwork requests fall towards the bottom.
So to answer your questions, yes, work into this case continues. No the TCIS unit doesn’t do a preliminary report. Because as the evidence is evaluated, often their initial thoughts on scene evolve as we view the evidence. As this investigation had continued it is now a criminal case for vehicular assault. … (Editor’s note: The text of state law for vehicular assault was included at this point in the reply. You can read it here.)
…In all serious injury collision cases, we request blood to find out if any drugs or alcohol were used prior to the collision.
Also, because this is a criminal investigation and no one having been charged yet, we can’t release the names of the parties involved.
Because this was such a high profile incident I will be keeping in close contact with the case detective and getting updates out as I get them.
Initial reports were that one person, who had to be cut out of his vehicle by SFD, was in critical condition, one in serious condition, one in stable condition.