October 15, 2007 in Nation/World

After crash, attention turns to traffic

Michael R. Blood Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

California Department of Transportation engineers examine the walls of a freeway tunnel north of Los Angeles on Sunday. Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

Fast facts

•Investigators determined that 31 vehicles – including big rigs and one passenger vehicle – were involved in the crash 30 miles north of Los Angeles.

•Two men and an infant were killed and 10 others suffered minor to moderate injuries.

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – With the work week fast approaching, authorities scrambled Sunday to move traffic around a major artery out of Los Angeles that was shut down by a fiery interstate tunnel pileup.

The main southbound lanes of Interstate 5 were to reopen this morning, authorities said, helping to alleviate some of the problem.

But on Sunday, Interstate 5 was still shut down in both directions, snarling traffic on surrounding roads, where drivers looked for alternative routes after Friday night’s crash left more than two dozen trucks and other vehicles in flames.

Commuters who depend on the stretch of freeway, which carries about 225,000 vehicles a day, faced the prospect of a nightmare getting to and from work.

“We’re doing everything we can … and we’ll continue to re-evaluate our alternate traffic routes,” said Warren Stanley, California Highway Patrol assistant chief.

The fire spread from vehicle to vehicle, sent flames shooting nearly 100 feet in the air outside the tunnel and reached temperatures as high as 1,400 degrees.

The tunnel is a truck bypass that runs beneath eight lanes of I-5, the main West Coast interstate linking Mexico and Canada. It is also a major route from Los Angeles to the city’s northern suburbs.

The southbound lanes of I-5 were closed for 2 1/2 miles; the northbound side was closed for about a mile.

Two northbound truck-bypass lanes around the crash site, which cars would be permitted to use, could reopen as early as Sunday night, said Deborah Harris, California Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

Officials hoped to reopen the southbound lanes today with detours around the tunnel area, said Doug Failing, Transportation Department district director. Other northbound lanes could reopen 24 hours later.

Stanley refused to speculate on the cause of the crash. He did not know when findings would be released.

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