4-mile, 5-hour closure, followup #2: SDOT’s response to councilmember’s questions; promise of ‘change in protocol’

July 16, 2014 at 1:26 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 12 Comments


(Above, SDOT tweet with traffic-cam screen grab shortly after crash happened)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Five weeks after the 5+-hour closure of a four-mile stretch of Highway 99 during a crash investigation, another city agency has answered City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen‘s questions about decisionmaking during the incident, which led to a domino-effect multi-neighborhood traffic jam.

We published the response from SPD – which had the decisionmaking authority – back on June 23rd, a week and a half after the councilmember’s original letter.

Now, Rasmussen has received and shared the SDOT response, which defers in spots to SPD, and adds that city agencies are working on “protocols” for interdepartmental coordination in any such future incidents.

Since this response was made inline to his original note, we are publishing the entire document below:

SDOT’s Cheryl Swab also told Rasmussen, “We are participating in a citywide process to better coordinate efforts between SPD, SCL, SPU, SDOT, and Fire during incidents such as these. The EOC is assisting this discussion and we are hopeful it will lead to a change in protocol that allows for more information exchange between departments when a significant closure is needed. We will report back to you once this process is complete.”

Councilmember Rasmussen says he will be following that protocol-change process and will report to you and us when more information is available – we’ll track it as well.

Meanwhile, we are checking with SPD to see if the report on the original crash is available yet – sometimes it takes months before reports are complete on major crash investigations – so that we can find out whether charges were recommended against anyone.

12 Comments

  1. I would love to see Councilmember Rasmussen lead the way in establishing interdepartmental “procedures” for coordinated transportation and land use goals. If that were to happen, imagine how much of this type derailed traffic scenario would diminish in frequency, duration and scope.

    Ya. Not gonna’ happen. Too logical to do first things first, don’t ya’ know.

    Comment by speaking of "procedures" — 2:14 pm July 16, 2014 #

  2. So, no solution. Typical.

    This is something a few key heads from all agencies could sit down, address in a few days/weeks and draw up procedures.

    So all we get is more kicking the can down the road.

    No leadership in this city at all levels.

    Comment by Ray — 2:30 pm July 16, 2014 #

  3. Wow. This is only now occurring to these agencies? I find that hard to believe. We have coordinated interagency plans for events that may not happen in a hundred years but a poorly timed, poorly located traffic accident was somehow unthinkable?

    Comment by wakeflood — 4:42 pm July 16, 2014 #

  4. When you look at Chapter 5 as SDOT references, it seems pretty complete and should have worked better. It would be interesting to ask SDOT to go item by item and ask “did you do this and at what time”. And also “if you did not do this, what justified deviation and what positive action was taken in it’s place”.

    Comment by CeeBee — 5:24 pm July 16, 2014 #

  5. Seriously, God help us when we actually have a substantial (hell, even medium) earthquake in the Seattle metro area. If our different agencies cannot work and coordinate for something as minor as a wreck, imaging what it will be like when there is widespread chaos and damage.

    Comment by Ray — 5:40 pm July 16, 2014 #

  6. Looks like they did follow their protocols. Read Chapter 2 – Emergency Response. If there is a major accident on 99, then Close south-bound 99 at the Denny Exit. Perfectly Done. Too bad no one could make a decision to open 99 upto the West Seattle Exit before the accident was totally resolved.
    Too bad the authorities keep returning to “Preserving the Accident Scene” and not addressing the resulting traffic snarl and how common sense would have relieved it a little if they had allowed traffic to return to 99 up to the WS Exit by 3:30

    Comment by Magic8Ball — 5:58 pm July 16, 2014 #

  7. Thanks for the follow up WSB! It will be interesting to get some info on the parties involved in the crash. I would hope that the poor decisions made were in part due to a perceived need to cover ass rather than a need to cover up.

    Comment by mpento — 6:47 pm July 16, 2014 #

  8. Previously I had thought the accident investigation took so long because they had to fly in GM investigators to investigate the failure mode of a faulty ignition switch. (The faulty ignition switch that turns off the engine while driving, and renders the airbags, power steering, power brakes inoperable.)

    Comment by bolo — 7:37 pm July 16, 2014 #

  9. Nice alphabet soup!
    Does anyone have ANY accountability?
    Is it not possible for any one to say “this will not happen again” or “this is how we must deal with situations such as these”
    Send everything to committee. Legislate by poll. God forbid any city (management) employee take a stance.

    Comment by 935 — 8:14 pm July 16, 2014 #

  10. Personally, I would rather see SDOT have decision rights over a road closure instead SPD. This would force SPD to justify the closure rather than them making an automatic knee-jerk “shut it all down” decision, which appears to be the case currently.

    Comment by jwright — 8:20 pm July 16, 2014 #

  11. Just because they followed the protocol to shut down 99 at Denny doesn’t mean they took the hugely important next step of having any available staff directing traffic at the choke points CAUSED by shutting 99 down. THAT’S the part of the plan that I’m wondering about.

    It’s called mitigation. You keep intersections clear, you override the stop lights and you have coordinated traffic MOVING. This isn’t rocket science and it’s what a traffic plan is supposed to include.

    Comment by wakeflood — 8:57 am July 17, 2014 #

  12. Now we have our new SDOT director Scott Kubly I am sure everything will get better. Mayor Murray says he’s a transportation renaissance man who’s virtually done it all. Boy that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

    Comment by wetone — 12:04 pm July 17, 2014 #

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