October 14, 2007
I-5 crash follow-up
A Tragic Reminder
of the Importance of I-5
Most motorists have, no doubt, seen and heard the numerous media reports of the tragic multi-truck crash that caused the closure of Interstate 5 in the Newhall Pass on Oct. 12.
immediate impacts were obvious: Three people were killed, 10 were
injured, more than two dozen big rig trucks were destroyed and the
freeway’s southbound truck route tunnel was damaged from the ensuing
fire. Businesses waited longer for deliveries, motorists slogged
through detours and surface streets were gridlocked with diverted
Beyond the tragedy, the crash also provided a big-picture
illustration of just how vital the Interstate 5 corridor is to Southern
California, the entire state and even the nation. The smooth flow of
traffic on I-5 in Los Angeles County is crucial to commerce, safety,
security, quality of life and the general sanity of the populace. As
one trucker put it, “It’s the only interstate that connects Northern
and Southern California.”
For transportation of goods and
people, it is quite literally California’s lifeline — and even on a
routine basis its capacity is pushed to the limit. The horrific crash
of last Friday night provided us all with a graphic reminder of just
how severe the impacts are when that lifeline is severed.
Simply put, the gateway to the Los Angeles metropolitan area was closed.
The I-5 in northern Los Angeles County carries more than 200,000
vehicles per day — including more than 19,000 trucks. A half-million
vehicle trips were interrupted in some form or fashion due to the
crash, fire and ensuing closure.
Southland residents witnessed
the closure’s trickle-down effect in a big way last weekend, as freeway
traffic diverted onto surface streets and other highways throughout the
region, turning routine trips into lengthy adventures.
Fortunately, when it comes to immediate impacts, our government
services have risen to the challenge. Firefighters and the California
Highway Patrol performed admirably in managing the crisis, and Caltrans
worked fast to reopen as much of the freeway as possible. While
motorists are experiencing additional delays as the southbound truck
route tunnel is repaired, in the short term the duration of the crash’s
most severe traffic impact was reduced. We are all grateful for our
public safety personnel and their efforts to end the closure as quickly
and safely as possible.
While we all hope we never see another
tragedy such as this one, proposed improvements to increase capacity
will not only better position the freeway to handle traffic in the
event of disaster, they will also help ensure a safe, consistent flow
of traffic — on a good day or on a bad day.