Semi-Truck Driver, Giant Spools Cause Closure Of Alaskan Way Viaduct

Seattle police and local and state transportation officials were forced to close a portion of State Route 99 for two-and-a-half hours Wednesday afternoon after a semi-truck driver’s oversized load struck the underside of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Police received 911 reports at 11:34 AM that a semi-truck had lost a load of two 12-foot spools—each weighing between 700 and 1,000 pounds—on the southbound lanes of the viaduct, near Columbia Street. At least one of the spools struck the underside of the upper level of the viaduct, dislodging the massive load from the truck’s flatbed trailer.

Officers blocked traffic onto the viaduct between the Battery Street Tunnel and Stewart Street while officials from the Washington State Department of Transportation, Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Fire Department and Seattle City Light worked to bring in heavy equipment to remove the spools.

Crews were able to use a bulldozer to re-load and secure the spools back on the semi-truck, which was moved to a construction area. Officials reopened the viaduct shortly before 2 PM. Today’s efforts to clear SR99 were significantly aided by planning and partnerships developed after another incident involving a semi-truck in March, which led to a nine-hour closure of the viaduct.

The Seattle Department of Transportation Commercial Vehicle Enforcement team cited the semi driver for “no oversized permit,” a violation of a state permit, and for “hitting a structure with impaired clearance.” The driver received $482 in citations, and could potentially face fines totaling thousands of dollars to cover the costs of the efforts to remove the spools. Oversized loads are not permitted on the portion of the viaduct where today’s collision occurred.

Officials have confiscated the driver’s commercial transportation permit, which he will need to reapply for before he can transport the load anywhere.

State officials say the spools—which were reportedly headed for Alabama—appear to have only caused minor damage to the viaduct. They will conduct a further assessment later this evening.