Why did it take 9 hours to move one truck off Highway 99? Newest report has explanations, recommendations, revelations

Remember the truck-on-its-side incident that closed southbound Highway 99 for nine hours last month (WSB coverage here), leading to domino-effect backups around the city and trapping drivers/riders on the Alaskan Way Viaduct?

(March 24 photo courtesy Chi Krneta)
The city went public today with its first version of an “after-action report” looking at the intricacies of why it took so long and what could change before the next one:

(Note the fine print at the bottom of the cover page, saying “The City of Seattle will be utilizing an external consultant to fully investigate this incident …”)

Reading through the report, you’ll note it includes a more detailed timeline than was released shortly after the incident.

(March 24th photo, included in report)
Part of what that reveals: Nobody contacted Seattle Tunnel Partners, whose equipment-laden worksite was yards away, until 6:30 pm, four hours after the crash. Within ten minutes of that contact, STP offered equipment to help clear the wrecked truck. But no STP equipment was used until almost 9:30 pm, when the tunnel contractor’s “Sky Jacks” were used to unload part of the truck trailer’s load of fish so it could be moved. (By the way, the report identifies the fish as cod, not salmon as we were told the day it happened, worth “$450,000 to $750,000.)

The report goes into a list of what needs to happen by June 30th – as “SPD and SDOT will expeditiously develop protocols that prioritize incident response decision making on arterial streets” – and that list gives hints as to what didn’t work so well during the March 24th response, including:

… Ensure that City personnel have requisite expertise to make sophisticated on-scene assessments or have access to necessary external expertise. For example, if onscene personnel had access to on-scene engineer, more critical information and analysis could have been incorporated into the decision-making process.

…(Be aware of w)hat other resources (equipment, personnel, or private sector relationships) could be brought to bear on incident management. For example, would prior agreements and protocols have made STPs loan of Skyjacks to unload the trailer easier and quicker? If prior agreements were in place with the Port of Seattle or other private loading companies, could additional heavy equipment been utilized?

f. Ensure that current communications systems are adequate to ensure accurate and timely responses to incidents. For example, was there a delay in the arrival of heavy class tow-truck?

“Engineering problem” was in fact how SPD spokesperson Sgt. Sean Whitcomb described it in a conversation with WSB the day after the crash (included in our followup report). He also said at that time that a citation would likely be issued; the report released today says, in fact, “The operator would later be cited by SPD for exceeding reasonable speed.”

19 Replies to "Why did it take 9 hours to move one truck off Highway 99? Newest report has explanations, recommendations, revelations"

  • westseattledood April 11, 2015 (1:25 am)

    I am not, somehow, inspired to believe our little confederacy of lunkheads. Embarrassing.

  • JeffK April 11, 2015 (6:17 am)

    It does not take a report or 9 hours for any reasonable person to look at that situation and, once the driver was taken away for medical care, to assess that dragging the truck and trailer in to the adjacent STP area immediately out of the lanes was the obvious choice. I’m talking drag that junk 25 FEET out of the way, traffic resumes, then SPD/SDOT can figure out how to deal with the truck/cargo and if it could use any of STP’s equipment. By their timeline this might have been about 90 minutes in to the incident where this could have been cleared out of the lanes.

  • KT April 11, 2015 (8:28 am)

    Seems to me we’ve heard this before.

  • sophista-tiki April 11, 2015 (8:42 am)

    sooooo,, don’t they teach these people how to problem solve on their feet? typical methodology of the ” basic ” demographic. Every situation does not require a large group of people to think about and analyze for several hours on other peoples dime and time. This is just one incident in a laundry list of issues that give the appearance that Seattle is clueless about how to be a real city.

  • flynlo April 11, 2015 (8:58 am)

    Assuming a full load (80,000 lbs) –
    That codfish was worth between $5.00 & $9.00/lb?????
    Something doesn’t pass the “smell” test!!

  • jissy April 11, 2015 (9:10 am)

    I just find these reports after the fact LOADS OF BU$*%*IT b/c every time it happens the same cluster results and then we get another report saying it will be different next time b/c we dissected this episode and know what to do differently next time. IT’S CRAP CRAP AND MORE CRAP.

  • John April 11, 2015 (9:39 am)

    As of today, the Seattle Times is still calling it a load of salmon?

    • WSB April 11, 2015 (9:44 am)

      See for yourself in the report. I don’t make these things up. (Edit) Also, if you go back and check their story, while they say salmon in the photo caption, they say cod in the body of the story. Which, again, is what the new report says. – TR

  • WSMOM April 11, 2015 (10:20 am)

    What I want to know is…did that fish go to market after all that? Ew.

  • teacher/mom April 11, 2015 (10:46 am)

    I shudder to think of this happening in, oh say, a tunnel . . .

  • Jw April 11, 2015 (11:33 am)

    Um….stp personel were the ones that pulled the driver out of the cab…
    If I’m not mistaken wsdot has a contract with a particular tow company. Maybe we need to review this policy.

  • Jw April 11, 2015 (11:36 am)

    And if anyone is wondering a “sky jack” is just a brand of off road forklift. The type commonly seen on construction sites.

  • wetone April 11, 2015 (12:20 pm)

    Really doesn’t matter what type of fish was in container. What this does show is the incompetence of the Seattle government in dealing with any issues, simple or not and seen all to often lately. Their answer is hire more and put together more task forces for dealing with these simple problems. True signs there is to much government already involved. Shows the leadership in place for making decisions either doesn’t have the experience for job or experience at creating the proper staff. One doesn’t just keep hiring people. I would like to see the bill from towing company’s for this job and see if tax payers paid or truck drivers insurance is paying.
    Tacoma sadly had a deadly car accident yesterday that ended up on I-5, with-in 2hrs had traffic flowing again and scene cleaned up. I think SDOT director Kubly needs to go hang out with those folks and learn something.

  • ChefJoe April 11, 2015 (7:23 pm)

    The dreaded “too fast for conditions” ticket will add $124 to the city’s coffers.

  • Lacey April 11, 2015 (7:46 pm)

    I’ve biked every day since that incident. It takes me about 45 minutes to get from the Morgan street junction to my building near the sculpture park downtown via the water taxi. After experiencing that traffic situation…never again.

  • David April 11, 2015 (9:52 pm)

    I will not be voting for any more transportation projects until the City of Seattle proves that it knows how to manage both projects and incidents

  • DarkHawke April 12, 2015 (2:15 pm)

    @teacher/mom: Remember that the tunnel WILL NOT have trucks this large going through it. It’s too small, so this load of fish and ALL other large trucks will be on surface streets or I-5 in the future. Which, of course, will contribute to greater overall congestion, and that doesn’t even include the number of regular drivers who will be dissuaded from using the new tunnel because of the tolling. So while this particular kind of incident won’t befoul tunnel traffic, commuting in and around Seattle will only get worse, not better. Meanwhile, the best “solutions” we get from our elected officials are more billion dollar tunneling projects, sacrificing car traffic lanes for the few, the entitled, the bikeists, and slowing down major arterials. Yeah, they SO need more of our hard-earned. NOT!

    • WSB April 12, 2015 (2:32 pm)

      Correction: Per WSDOT’s FAQ:
      “Most freight will be able to use the SR 99 tunnel. Vehicles hauling hazardous or combustible materials will be prohibited from the tunnel, similar to current restrictions in the Battery Street Tunnel and on the viaduct during peak hours. These vehicles will take I-5 or Alaskan Way along the waterfront, as they do today.”
      Under “SR 99 tunnel questions” http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Viaduct/Faqs

  • Dude April 13, 2015 (9:32 am)

    This might be the most Seattle story ever.

    Did we spend hours discussing what should have been a simple fix? Check.

    Are we now spending more money to hire a consultant to tell us what we should have done? Check.

    Some days this city is such a freaking embarrassment.

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