Fiery Big-Rig Crash Renews Questions about Interstate 5

  • Trucks burn in the truck lanes of the south/bound Interstate 5 in the Newhall Pass between Santa Clarita and Los Angeles early Saturday morning, Oct. 13. Rain slick roads and a blind turn in the truck tunnel contributed to the pile-up and intensity of the fire.

    Trucks burn in the truck lanes of the south/bound Interstate 5 in the Newhall Pass between Santa Clarita and Los Angeles early Saturday morning, Oct. 13. Rain slick roads and a blind turn in the truck tunnel contributed to the pile-up and intensity of the fire.

The same day that state officials signed an unprecedented accord that could increase the flow of goods transported in big rigs along the Golden State Freeway (Interstate 5) from Southern to Northern California, 30 big rig trucks and one passenger vehicle crashed in a chain reaction collision on Friday, Oct. 12 at about 11:30 p.m. at the Newhall Pass tunnel on the I-5. Two of the initial trucks in the pile-up caught fire, causing additional blazes as the tunnel turned into an oven with temperatures reported as high as 1400 degrees. Firefighters said they were not able to begin entering the area to clear the wreckage until about 3 p.m. Saturday because of the intense heat.

There were three confirmed fatalities, two adults and a 6 year old boy. Ten other people were injured, but preliminary reports indicate that most injuries were not life-threatening.

Vivid stories have emerged about the event. Traffic was backed up for miles and commuters experienced hours of delay in both north and southbound directions as I-5 was closed down and freeway traffic directed to detours on surface streets and alternate routes.

The Southern California National Freight Gateway Agreement was signed about twelve hours before the crash on Friday, Oct. 12 at Caltrans District 7 Office in downtown Los Angeles.

A press release from Caltrans described the event as "a signing ceremony where local, regional, state and federal agencies will meet to sign an historic agreement establishing the Southern California National Freight Gateway Collaboration." They said "the collaboration will address the daunting challenges presented by record growth of moving freight by ships, trucks and trains through the region."

Housing and "inland port" development targeted to the I-5 corridor worries those who already use the route.

Read more about Heavy Traffic on the Way

This is part of the October 19, 2007 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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